The Case for Scott Hartnell

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
Phil Kocher
@ me

This summer’s Unrestricted Free Agent class is widely considered to be one of the weakest crops in years, but late Thursday afternoon, an interesting name was officially added to it thanks to a late buyout — Scott Hartnell.

Hartnell’s now ex-team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, formally announced they would be buying out the final two years of his six-year, $28M contract. According to, the buyout will cost the Jackets $1.5M against the cap next season followed by a $3M charge in 2018-19, and then two additional years at $1.25M. Hartnell’s contract would have carried an annual average value of $4.75M through to 2018-19 had the Jackets not opted for a buyout.

“Moves like this are never easy, but with our current organizational depth at the position, it is something we believe is in the best interest of our club moving forward,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen following the team announcement.

According to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, Hartnell was informed at the end of last season that the team wished to move on without him, but the veteran forward was never asked to waive his No Movement Clause in order to be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights during their Expansion Draft.

Regardless, Hartnell is now free to sign anywhere he pleases as of July 1st. While his former clubs, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Nashville Predators are probably the leading contenders for his services, the New York Rangers would be wise to touch base with the 35-year old to gauge how amenable he is to donning a Blueshirt next season.

Despite his age, Hartnell is still a valuable NHL presence for a team’s bottom-six given his size and physical play that doesn’t come at the expense of being a quality hockey player with the puck. He had 37 points in 78 games last season despite averaging just 12:03 TOI/G — the lowest seasonal average he’s had since his rookie season in which he averaged 10:54 TOI/G. He was also eighth in points per 60 minutes last year among all NHL forwards and 15th over the last two years combined. While his seasonal totals probably require being taken with a grain of salt due to the influence of the Blue Jackets’ insane winning streak last season, Hartnell’s value as a highly influential leader and bottom-six presence should hold true.

There’s no denying Hartnell is in decline, as are nearly all players his age. But the degree to that decline matters, and in his case, it’s yet to approach the kind of career-ending dip that should otherwise send NHL GMs into a panic about his immediate future.

I actually suggested Hartnell as a potential trade target/candidate back in May as part of a plan to inject some “Type A” into the Rangers nice guy line-up, but picking him up as a free agent is even better. The Blueshirts would only have to pay money, not assets, to acquire him given the nature in which he’s entering free agency through a buyout that will pay him $7M over the next four years. The amount of money required to bring him in shouldn’t amount to more than what most NHL fourth-line players get in free agency. Whether it’s for one year or potentially two, Hartnell’s AAV probably wouldn’t eclipse the $2M mark thanks to the ability to double dip his salaries.

With Jesper Fast out five months (or longer) since successfully undergoing a labral repair of his left hip back on June 5th, the Rangers do have an opening on their roster at wing, even if it’s just temporary. And this says nothing of any additional trades the Rangers might pull off between now and the start of the 2017-18 season that could open up a more permanent roster spot for a player like Hartnell. Regardless, his presence, which is absolutely justified by his production, make him a very attractive candidate to add to a milquetoast roster that could surely benefit from his unique personality and his swagger.

Whaddaya say, Rangersmaniacs?!

All contract and salary information courtesy of

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