Rangers right wing Jesper Fast looks on against the St....

Rangers right wing Jesper Fast looks on against the St. Louis Blues in the third period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The length of the contract was the reason the Rangers chose not to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Jesper Fast, GM Jeff Gorton said on Monday.

Fast, a defensive-minded forward who killed penalties and played up and down the lineup, signed a three-year contract Saturday with the Carolina Hurricanes. The contract carries an average annual value of $2 million, a slight raise over the $1.85 million AAV he was earning with the Rangers.

"We felt like term was a big issue for us going forward, with all the young players that we have in the organization and that we'll have to have to take care of eventually, financially,’’ Gorton said. "It's a tough decision, because Jesper has been a really good Ranger and very popular with his teammates, with his coaching staff, with us in management, and fans, certainly.’’

Fast, who, in 2019-20, played mostly on the second line, with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, scored 12 goals, with 17 assists (29 points) in 69 games in 2019-20. He was voted by his teammates as the Player’s Player for the fifth consecutive season.

JD explains signing of Johnson

Team president John Davidson explained the signing of veteran defenseman Jack Johnson Friday to a one-year, $1.15 million deal."It’s a one-year contract; it’s a left ‘D’ that we felt we needed,’’ Davidson said. "The [$1.15 million] number on that, it fit because of our cap situation.’’

Davidson knows Johnson from their days together in Columbus, and he said new assistant coach Jacques Martin recommended Johnson, who played 67 games in 2019-20 for the Penguins. He added that the Penguins’ penalty kill was tied for eighth in the league, while the Rangers were 23rd, and Johnson was "an important penalty-killing defenseman’’ for the Penguins.But the salary and one-year term were the keys.

With five restricted free agents to sign, and the need to leave room under the salary cap to accommodate performance bonuses for entry level contract players, the Rangers don’t have a lot of money to spend. Plus, they have several prospects in their system they will need to make room for after this season, like 2018 first round picks K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist and 2019 second round pick Matthew Robertson.

More Rangers