Haggerty joins Rangers from college

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Newly signed free-agent forward Ryan Haggerty grew up a die-hard New York Rangers fan in Stamford, Connecticut. So when he made the decision to leave Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute following his junior season, the bigger choice of where to sign was not that difficult.

The 21-year-old forward, who led RPI with 28 goals this season, chose the Blueshirts from a list of 12 interested teams, agent George Bazos told ESPNNewYork.com.

“I grew up a pretty die-hard Rangers fan as a little kid growing up in Stamford. I’m very truthful to my blue, so it makes it even more special to me,” Haggerty said following his first practice with the team Monday.

As part of the freshly inked deal, Haggerty is ensured to remain with the big club for the remainder of the season, per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which states that a player who signs an entry-level contract after the NHL’s trade deadline may not be sent down to the minors for the rest of that season.

Burning the first year of his entry-level contract was negotiated as part of the deal to sign with the Rangers, a common request among college free agents these days. Bazos said the teams seriously interested in Haggerty were all willing to do such, and this factored into the equation. But he is on a two-way contract that carries both an NHL and AHL salary, meaning that he can be sent down to the AHL next season.

For now, he’s trying to soak in as much as possible with his new teammates.

“I know it’s a tough situation. We’re in the middle of a playoff push and I understand that. I just want to kind of stay out of the way, but also make an impact,” Haggerty said. “I just want to learn as much as I can as quick as I can.”

Haggerty is viewed as a goal scorer with a lot of offensive potential and a wicked release, but he’s not afraid to deliver a hit or take one, either. He said he felt ready to make the jump to the NHL after this season, a decision that was supported by those around him.

“I felt strong about where my game is,” he said. “I talked with my agent, I talked with my coach [Seth Appert], and they agreed that it was right to move on from college hockey.”

What happens now is anyone’s guess. The Rangers' scoring woes aside, it’s hard to see him stealing a spot from someone in the team’s lineup right now. Without seeing him play, coach Alain Vigneault said he wasn’t sure about how Haggerty will be used -- or if he will be used at all -- the rest of this season.

“Right now, we’re trying to get [into the playoffs], so we’ll see," Vigneault said.

Vigneault admitted there would have been some positives about allowing Haggerty to develop in Hartford, but the coach sees some good things about Haggerty being around the big club, as well.

“Going to Hartford would’ve been good to get some ice time, but being here ... brings some benefits.”