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Let’s try to cut through the fog on the matter of Tyler Motte, who on Saturday signed a one-year deal with the Lightning for $800,000.

The 28-year-old has many attributes. He can skate. He plays with passion. He can be a disruptor on the forecheck. He is kind of a pest. He can kill penalties.

But Motte is not very good at self-evaluating or being able to read a free-agent marketplace. Essentially every team around the league sees Motte as a grinding, energetic fourth-liner. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger has never recorded as many as 10 goals or 20 points in a season over the course of his seven-year career.

On the flat-cap market, that is the definition of an $800,000-to-$1 million player. On depth charts, that is the definition of a fourth-liner.

But when Motte looks in the mirror, he sees something different. He sees a third-line winger who should be making $2M per. That was his asking price entering free agency this year.

New York Rangers center Tyler Motte #64 moves the puck down ice as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman #77 defends in the first period. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Around the NHL, Tyler Motte profiles as a typical fourth-liner, a role Motte felt he exceeded.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

That’s what he stuck to throughout nearly the entire summer until finally getting a deal with the Lightning, who, we have been told by a reliable informant, attempted to trade for him at each of the last two deadlines.

Instead, the Rangers acquired him both times — in 2022 from Vancouver for a fourth-round draft pick, and in 2023 from Ottawa for Julien Gauthier and a seventh. He was an energy guy for the Blueshirts, combining with Ryan Reaves and either Kevin Rooney or Barclay Goodrow for the 2022 run to the conference finals and then sliding in with Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey this past season.

He wanted to stay in New York last year and he wanted to stay in New York this year. General manager Chris Drury would have been more than happy to have him. But not at the winger’s price. At breakup day, it seemed, according to Motte’s reading of his exit meeting with the GM, that the parties would reach an accommodation.

The Rangers entered free agency with $11.7 million available to fill eight roster spots, including those belonging to then-pending restricted free agents K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere. We are told that Drury informed agents that his July 1 agenda was to sign three forwards for $800,000.

That meant the Blueshirts needed to find fourth-line types willing to sign for that right out of the gate. Drury could not wait for weeks until a particular player’s price came down. He had to fill the chairs before the music stopped.

New York Rangers GM Chris Drury, during a press conference where Pete Laviolette was introduced as the Rangers new head coach, at the Rangers practice facility in Tarrytown, New York.
Chris Drury’s goal of signing forwards for $800,000 or less this summer made a deal to bring back Tyler Motte all but impossible given the veteran’s asking price.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

And so, on July 1, the Rangers signed Nick Bonino to a one-year deal for $800,000. They signed Tyler Pitlick for one year at $787,500. They signed Alex Belzile and Riley Nash to two-year, two-way contracts worth $775,000 each on the NHL level. To cap it off, they were able to sign Blake Wheeler, who presumably will play in the middle six, to a one-year, over-35 deal for $800,000, plus a $300,000 signing bonus.

I’m not particularly thrilled with the fourth-liners the team signed, even if they are only placeholders until kids in the system ripen. I’m not particularly thrilled with an opening fourth line of Vesey or Goodrow with Bonino and Pitlick. But I understand why Drury signed these players who were willing to take $800,000 (or less). These guys got it. They didn’t want to be left out in the cold trolling for jobs or tryouts with camp approaching.

We’ve been told by multiple sources that Motte’s agent, Rich Evans, was not setting the agenda. The player did that. And Motte insisted he tracked as a third-liner worth $2M per. That does not make him a bad person. That does not make him greedy. It does, though, make him kind of delusional. (Motte fired Evans last month. Pat Brisson replaced him and did the deal with Tampa Bay.)

The emails and messages on social media have landed. Fans want to know why the Rangers couldn’t have signed Motte for the same $800,000 for which he agreed to terms with the Lightning.

It was too late, that’s why.

Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 9, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Signed in the offseason, Nick Bonino likely will skate on the Rangers’ fourth line until some of the franchise’s prospects are ready to join the club.
NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers have 48 players under contract within the organization. The NHL maximum is 50.

It would be foolhardy for Drury to have only one contract slot available going into the season. Plus, out of those 48 contracts, nine could be considered fourth-liners if you include Vesey and Goodrow.

There are Bonino, Pitlick, Belzile, Nash, Vesey and Goodrow. Then, in Hartford, there are Jonny Brodzinski, Curtis Leschyshyn and Anton Blidh.

That is more than enough.

On breakup day, Motte sounded sanguine about the prospects of remaining with the Rangers. He said he’d had a great exit interview with Drury. It sounded as if the parties were on their way to reaching a deal.

But then Motte directed his agent to ask for $2M. And then Motte waited, day after day, week after week, month after month, before signing for the same $800,000 he would have gotten from the Rangers even before the market opened.

That’s the story.

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Rookie camp re-do

Rangers’ rookie camp opens Wednesday and will feature two games against the Flyers rookies at Allentown over the weekend.

Philadelphia Flyers Forward Connor McClennon (75) New York Rangers Forward Alex Whelan (62) and Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Wyatte Wylie (65) in action during the New York Rangers Development Camp Rookie Game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers on September 18, 2021 at the MSG Training Facility in Tarrytown, NY
Rangers and Flyers rookies will renew last year’s get-together when they play each other this weekend in Allentown, Pa.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re told the Blueshirts dropped out of the Traverse City tournament — in which they participated from 2007 through 2019 — because management believes the travel was disruptive and the time would be more productively spent at the club’s training facility.