The New York Rangers are the team willing to take a chance on Jake Leschyshyn, claiming him off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. The young forward was waived yesterday after failing to record a single point this season. They aren’t the only team nabbing a new player though. Casey Fitzgerald has been claimed by the Florida Panthers, meaning he’s leaving the Buffalo Sabres, the only organization he’s ever been a part of.
Leschyshyn, 23, is better than he has shown for the Golden Knights this season, but the fact was that he hadn’t produced any offense despite regular (albeit limited) playing time. Selected 62nd overall in 2017, the Rangers likely have confidence that they can get him back closer to the player that put up 27 points in 34 games for the Henderson Silver Knights last season. A versatile forward who can be good defensively, engage physically and play both center and wing, he doesn’t need to produce a ton to be valuable. He does have to produce some though, which will ultimately decide whether he stays in the Rangers lineup for long.
Fitzgerald’s loss is a critical one for the Sabres. As referenced yesterday, when he was placed on waivers, Buffalo has some of the thinnest organizational depth in the league on defense. With today’s loss, they are now tied with Seattle for the fewest defensemen under NHL contracts with 11. Should the team run into any injuries, they would quickly run into a tricky situation in terms of available call-ups. With the team legitimately challenging for a playoff spot, that may end up being an area of focus at the trade deadline.
For Florida though, Fitzgerald is a nice solution. In early December, we wrote that defensive depth was a serious need, as the coaching staff didn’t seem comfortable icing the bottom pair for more than a few minutes a game. Matt Kiersted, for instance, is averaging just 9:51 in his 20 appearances. Fitzgerald, who has played 59 games over the last two seasons with Buffalo, gives them another option there, perhaps one that can gain some trust.
It wouldn’t be the first time a waiver claim did well on the Panthers blue line. Gustav Forsling, who now logs more than 24 minutes a night, was claimed almost exactly two years ago and has lived up to the potential.