Since July 1, not a single person has articulated sound reasoning for the New York Rangers signing Tanner Glass to a three year, $1.45million per year contract. I’m not about to try to spin this. He is, by all objective metrics and observations, a bad hockey player at the NHL level. He’s about as useful to a team as the sock he’s sewing in the above photo would be.
So why would the Rangers do it? There’s a lot of circumstantial points to make here, but nothing that really points to one reason in particular. Faced with the certain loss of Brian Boyle to unrestricted free agency, the team likely sought someone with bottom-six experience to fill his role on the left wing. Ta da! Glass fills both roles. He’s a left wing who hasn’t played anywhere but the fourth line. Problem solved.
Outside of those areas, Boyle also was a stalwart penalty killer, so the Blueshirts would also need to seek someone to fill that hole. Bingo, Glass has played on the PK. Another good fit.
Here’s the problem. Tanner Glass is BAD AT HOCKEY. REALLY BAD.
The guys in this graph are all players the Rangers could have used to fill Boyle’s vacant roster spot (minus, of course, Derek Dorsett, unceremoniously traded to Vancouver on Draft Day). What do they all share in common? They’re not very good – but all of them are better than Glass, and not by a small margin. That dark red beneath Glass’ name? That means his team did much worse than it usually did in terms of shot generation when he was on the ice. Dorsett, for one, had even worse zone starts than Glass, but still managed to basically break even in CF%. WHY?
Now, as an unrestricted free agent himself, Glass had some leverage. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he received other calls from other teams. But this contract makes zero sense. Steve Downie signed with the Penguins for one year. Carcillo is going to their camp on a tryout invite. Paul Bissonnette still doesn’t have a job offer. I could go on, but you get the idea.
A cogent argument is that merely by playing on the Rangers’ fourth line, Glass’ possession metrics will improve because the Blueshirts are a better team. I don’t dispute that’s a possibility, but what I’m concerned about is how likely that is. The Rangers’ fourth line currently consists of no one, unless Dominic Moore is going to be tasked with that role again. We don’t know anything about how well it will perform right now. What we do know is that Glass’ presence there won’t help matters at all.
At every point in his NHL career, Glass has been a negative possession player. If he were to play at all for the Rangers this year, it would be in that fourth line, unfavorable ZS% role. A big reason for the Rangers’ success in 2013-14 was having a fourth line capable of moving the puck out of its defensive zone. Adding Glass’ regular shifts to that unit effectively neuters any advantage the Blueshirts had last year. Glass also turns 31 in November. There’s no fountain of youth on the horizon – he’s not going to magically improve.
Fortunately, Glass’ presence on the roster isn’t guaranteed, not least due to the signings of Lee Stempniak, Matthew Lombardi, and potentially Ryan Malone. The team also has prospects like Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, and new acquisition Kevin Hayes who will be angling for those precious bottom-six roles. Not all of those players can make the team – at best, they’re fighting for four spots. In an ideal world, their presence, in some order, would push Glass off of the 23-man roster. However, that scenario presents its own problem. Demoting Glass to the AHL would cost the Rangers $525,000 against the salary cap. Dead money! Absolutely no way to get it back. Brilliant roster and cap management, I say.
This signing has already created serious problems for the team. Inking Glass immediately on July 1 decreased the team’s negotiating ability with regard to retaining important players like Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot. Whether they intended on negotiating with either of them, is, of course, up for debate. But that said, it also limited the Rangers’ ability to negotiate with other unrestricted free agents aside from Dan Boyle, whom the Rangers sought out like a fly homing in on sticky tape on the same day.
That stupid allegory is fitting, at least in this regard. The Rangers are stuck with Tanner Glass for the next three years. If he plays, he will almost assuredly make the team worse. If he is banished to Hartford, he costs the team a portion of the cap that it can’t recover. Worst of all, it reveals what many fans feared at the time of this signing – the front office simply doesn’t know what it’s doing. That is one scary proposition, and it makes replicating last year’s run look even more improbable.