In a surprising move late Monday night the Rangers made their fourth free agent signing of the summer, reportedly inking 36-year-old Jeff Halpern to a one-year deal.
The big draw of Halpern (no pun intended) is that he won 58.4% of faceoffs in 2011-2012. That was a major area of weakness for the Blueshirts a year ago.
With Brad Richards, Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle already on board, the Rangers are set down the middle. Barring a trade – and this signing doesn’t mean New York will make one, Halpern is merely a depth player – this move all but ensures that both Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov will serve as wings next season.
Halpern spent last season with Washington, where he also spent the first six years of his career. A veteran of five teams, Halpern’s career is winding down but he’s still an effective depth forward that blocks shots and can play against scoring lines.
Though he only managed four goals and 12 assists in 69 games last season, Halpern tallied 11 goals and 15 assists in 72 games with Montreal the year before, very respectable numbers for a bottom-line center.
Halpern qualifies as a dreaded over-35 signing, but if initial reports are true that he signed a one-year $700k deal, then this is a relatively harmless contract.
Halpern has averaged just over 12:30 of ice-time over the last two seasons. 1:44 of that came on the penalty kill for the Capitals last year.
However, the Capitals were apparently dissatisfied with Halpern’s play down the stretch and he was a scratch for 12 of the team’s final 15 games and participated in just two postseason games.