The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with Vladislav Namestnikov on a two-year contract that will pay him $4MM a season. There had been rumors earlier in the day that Namestnikov was considering a return to the KHL, but agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey immediately shot them down and indicated the deal was in the works. Namestnikov will instead remain in New York and try to find some chemistry with the team that acquired him midseason.
After being sent by the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the package to acquire Ryan McDonagh, Namestnikov struggled in New York. With just four points in 19 games, he finished his season with 48—which was still a career high, but much less than he was on pace for at the time of the trade. Of course, in Tampa Bay Namestnikov had spent much of the season on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, something he won’t be afforded during his time with the Rangers. Instead, they’ll rely on him to create offense on his own and help round out a forward group that has a lot of potential, but were very inconsistent last season.
Interestingly the 25-year old will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this deal, meaning he could turn into trade bait again should the Rangers struggle to rebound from their disappointing season in 2017-18. There’s a ton of talent in the Russian forward, who can play center or wing, but he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together for a full season. If that happens in New York, they’ll have a very valuable asset on their hands, or a key player to build around on a free agent deal.
For now, a $4MM cap hit puts him as the fourth highest-paid forward on the team and he’ll be expected to produce like it. We’ll have to wait and see if he ends up playing center, or if Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson’s development ends up pushing Namestnikov to the wing once again.