Troubles Aside, Veteran is A Great Faceoff Guy And A Positive In The Locker Room

By Sean Hartnett
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On Monday morning, the Rangers signed free agent forward Jarret Stoll to a reported one-year, $800,000 contract.

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The 33-year-old faceoff expert adds to the competition for bottom-six forward spots ahead of the Rangers’ Sept. 17 training camp start date.

Stoll was arrested on April 17 for suspicion of possessing cocaine and pyschoactive drug MDMA at a Las Vegas pool party. On June 25, the charge was lessened to two misdemeanors.

For the Rangers, this is an incredibly low-risk move. Should Stoll lose out in preseason competition, his contract allows for him to be buried in the minors.

Stoll’s production has fallen in recent years. His 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in 73 games for the Los Angeles Kings last season was a career-low aside from his four-game rookie stint with the Edmonton Oilers in 2002-03. Last season, his advanced statistics showed that he dragged down the possession numbers of all Kings teammates except for Marian Gaborik and Jeff Schultz. That being said, there’s a solid chance this deal works out for the Rangers.

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound center is capable of making the opening night roster, as he performs valuable roles as a bottom-six center and a penalty killer. He has won 55.4 percent of faceoffs during his 12-year NHL career. Alongside Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk and San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, Stoll is one of three active players to record a faceoff percentage of 51 or higher in every season since 2003-04.

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At this stage of his career, Stoll is expected to give the Rangers production similar to 27-point center Dominic Moore. He is no longer capable of being the 40-point-plus player he was during his first three seasons in Los Angeles.

In recent seasons, the Rangers have given troubled players a second chance. They offered Ryan Malone a landing spot after he was arrested just before the 2014 playoffs for a DUI and cocaine possession. After the Tampa Bay Lightning used their final compliance buyout to release Malone, the Rangers signed the veteran forward to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 last September.

Malone suited up for six games before being assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL on Nov. 10, 2014. Throughout training camp, preseason, and his short stint with the Blueshirts, Malone was a popular character in the Rangers’ dressing room and importantly served as mentor to rookie Kevin Hayes.

Stoll was often described as a vocal teammate and a likable presence within the Kings’ dressing room. Following the 2014-15 season, he spoke with Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider about his desire to play for a winner.

“You want to be a part of a good group; you want to be a part of a fun group that wins,” Stoll said. “I don’t think you ever want to be on a losing team. Sometimes, obviously, it happens. You’re not going to make the playoffs every year; you’re not going to win every year. But you want to be with a great group that means a lot to one another and has a chance to win a Stanley Cup.”

If all goes well during training camp, Stoll will have a chance to compete for his third championship. It wasn’t very long ago that Stoll was playing an important role for the Kings when they beat Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final during Alain Vigneault’s first season on New York’s bench. Now, he will have the chance to impress AV during training camp, cement his role, and possibly serve as a useful veteran that helps put a championship ring on AV’s finger.

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Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey