Free Agent Profile: Zach Aston-Reese
Zach Aston Reese was one of the hottest college free agents in recent memory when he walked out of Northeastern University at the end of the 2016-17 college season, with nearly half the league chasing him. The forward eventually opted to sign a two-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins beginning the following season, which also allowed him to make his professional debut with the Scranton Penguins/Wilkes-Barre of New York. LAH that year. After a brief but impressive 10-game stint in the AHL where he scored eight points, Aston-Reese returned and impressed once again with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, earning the opportunity to break into the NHL for the first time. in 2017-18.
In his first NHL season, Aston-Reese had four goals and two assists in 16 games, a solid performance that was made even better by his ability to play a physical game, contribute in dirty areas and contribute numerically disadvantaged. . It all led to Aston-Reese playing in 10 of Pittsburgh’s 12 playoff games that year as well. The following season, Aston-Reese will spend a little more time in the AHL before becoming a regular in the NHL team. In three seasons, the power forward recorded 45 points, 23 goals and 22 assists, over 145 regular season games, bringing his courageous and responsible style of play with his offensive production.
This season has been more or less the same for Aston-Reese, who had two goals and nine assists in 52 games for the Penguins before the trade deadline. Somewhat of a victim of the salary cap, Aston-Reese was included in the package that helped Pittsburgh come back to the fore Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks. Now on an Anaheim team that had struggled and traded several roster players at the deadline, Aston-Reese was able to slip into the roster immediately and make an impact. Although he hasn’t shown many signs of improvement from the player he’s been for his career so far, the forward has brought the same to the Ducks, tallying four points, including three goals. , in 17 games, which included enough regular penalty time.
At the end of the season, Aston-Reese was expected to come to the UFA market and the still-rebuilding Ducks opted to let him walk, as the franchise looked to revamp its roster to some extent. In the month and a half since the start of free agency, many players have signed, but some solid NHL talent is still waiting for a new opportunity, including Aston-Reese.
2021-22: 69 GP, 5-10-15, +9 ratings, 28 PIM, 78 shots, 231 hits, 13:02 ATOI
Career: 230 GP, 32-34-66, +39 ratings, 99 PIM, 351 shots, 655 hits, 13:42 ATOI
At the end of the offseason, players still on the market usually can’t afford to be too picky with the opportunities they receive, and the same could be true for Aston-Reese. However, it is to be expected that the striker will attract interest from teams who could offer him either a two-way contract or a PTO. Of those offers, the 28-year-old will likely seek one where he has the best chance of finding regular ice time. Aston-Reese’s responsible, physical and energetic play is a game that may not jump off the page statistically and could be difficult to understand by looking a little here and there, or of course, playing a little here and there. His game is one that shines, somewhat quietly, playing night and night. So, an opportunity on a team that can get him into the lineup every night may be the best situation.
The Staten Island native’s hometown team, the New York Rangers, are establishing themselves as a solid team. At present, Rangers have a talented group of players both up front and on the blue line, but with a back six who would plan to include Samy Blais, Philippe Chytil, Julien Gautier, Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Huntand Ryan Reaves, there could be opportunities for Aston-Reese to break the lineup. In all likelihood, he would be competing against Rangers prospects like Will Cuyle, Vitaly Kravtsovand Brennan Othmann for a roster spot and playing time, but his experience and style of play could be a perfect match for a younger side already building their last six with a similar style of player.
Other options for the veteran winger likely include rebuilding teams that would rather keep established NHL players in the roster than rush their hopes, like the Chicago Blackhawks or Arizona Coyotes. Aston-Reese may also be able to find an opportunity with a competitive team that values its experience and energy, looking to have it as a budget option to compete for ice time with their less experienced players that the team prefers to leave behind. develop, rather than playing in particularly important matches. A team like the Colorado Avalanche stands out as an example.
At the end of free agency, Aston-Reese’s options are likely limited to a two-way deal or a PTO. If he’s offered a one-way deal, it’s highly unlikely to be more than the league minimum of $750,000. A PTO could be the best-case scenario for Aston-Reese, giving him a chance to showcase his game, which becomes more apparent the more consistently it is seen. The PTO would give him a chance to find an opportunity with this team, or if not, maybe with another team that has the chance to evaluate his try from afar. A particularly strong performance can also propel Aston-Reese into guaranteed one-way contract territory, potentially for even more than the league minimum.