The New York Rangers have undergone many changes throughout the better part of the 2010s. But, if one thing has stayed consistent throughout it all, it’s the heart and consistency of Jesper ‘Old Reliable’ Fast.
It’s not often you hear about New York Rangers veteran forward, Jesper Fast. No, you won’t read much about him in the papers, notice him trending on Rangers Twitter, or even see his name on backs among the 18,006 seats in Madison Square Garden.
Yet strangely enough, he plays and has played an integral part of any success this franchise has achieved since his rookie season in 2014. He’s one of the few tenured Rangers left from the glory days of the 2010s. While not a potent point producer, I would imagine Fast is the first example a coach would point at in explaining what a professional hockey player is to a rookie.
His work ethic and 200-foot play are unmatched inconsistency, and he’s the most effective penalty killer on the team, can be played with any player on any line, and is even suitable for a clutch goal or two here and there.
Fast is arguably the most versatile Ranger—and has been for every edition of Gorton/Sather’s rosters. He’s the definition of reliable—a trustworthy professional you can lean on in tight spots. However, in so much change throughout this decade of emotional highs and lows, we forget who is behind the curtains in black camouflage—quietly doing his job and setting the stage every night.
So then why is the quiet Swiss-army knife so under-hyped? Why is the focus always on so many other names rather than him if he’s so valuable? I see it like this: Jesper Fast is like an offensive lineman in a football game; if he’s doing his job right, you’ll never hear about him.
It’s the little things that Fast brings at a world-class level to a hockey club. It’s his shot-blocking and pesky play style that frustratingly hinders his opponents, while also setting himself up in the right places, giving him the chance to cash in offensively when needed.
I remember there was a bit of communal head-scratching going on after 2018’s deadline purge. Once McDonagh had been shipped, there was a temporary alternate captain’s position available, and it was given to Fast. People were confused by this. With several other headliners on the team, why would Fast take this role? Especially during such a vulnerable time.
It’s not always about the points or the contracts. It’s about ethic and leading by example on the ice. Without Fast, you can bet that many tight wins we’ve enjoyed would have never happened. He’s not complicated to keep around either, so it was the ideal choice to then honor him with the “A” permanently the following season.
As we approach more decisions yet again, Fast will, unfortunately, be an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason after having signed a 3-year deal worth $5.55 million in 2017. As the budget is tight after this past summer’s signings (and more significant contracts to decide on in the meantime), Fast could end up being let go in July or packaged at the deadline as the front office could decide that his services are replaceable.
I have protested in my writing enough over the past couple of years. I am exhausted from all of the thought I invested in this over the last two deadlines. It makes me sick we will likely have to deal with this again, but that’s the business. I have learned what will be when it comes to these decisions.
I’d like to see Fast stick around as he plays a unique role that is not quantified in numbers but rather trusts. For now, “Quickie” will quietly continue to be the unsung hero of the New York Rangers—as he has through parts of seven seasons and three numbers on his back.