AP NEWS

Rangers sign three players, including Dylan McIlrath

July 15, 2016 GMT

Alain Vigneault loves to use the phrase “one more kick at the can.” That’s certainly suitable for Madison Square Garden crowd-pleasing defenseman Dylan McIlrath in terms of his future with the Rangers, though that will be determined, in part, by the coach’s willingness to use him regularly.

The bruising, 6-foot-5, 220-pound McIlrath led a trio of signings announced by the Rangers on Friday, including ex-Flames forward Josh Jooris, who could help the Rangers’ penalty kill with free agent center Dominic Moore’s presumed departure, and minor-league defenseman Tommy Hughes.

McIlrath, 24, the 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft, avoided his arbitration hearing set for Thursday in Toronto by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $800,000. That’s a $200,000 raise from last season when he had two goals, two assists and 64 penalty minutes in 34 games as he spent an entire season with the Rangers for the first time.

But McIlrath must play in at least 42 games this coming season, otherwise he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and, quite likely, seek employment and consistent ice time with another organization.

But McIlrath will have competition as he tries to move from the seventh defenseman’s role into a spot in the top six. Keith Yandle signed with the Panthers and Dan Boyle retired but general manager Jeff Gorton has, so far, been unable to move either Marc Staal or Dan Girardi.

But rookie Brady Skjei is expected to join Staal, Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein as regulars. That leaves McIlrath competing with Nick Holden, 29, acquired from the Avalanche, Adam Clendening, 23, who has played for the Oilers, Penguins, Blackhawks and Canucks, plus well-regarded prospect Ryan Graves, among other prospects at training camp, for ice time.

Jooris, 26, who became an unrestricted free agent after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Flames, had goal goals and 21 assists in 119 games the past two seasons and two of his four goals last season came shorthanded. He agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 in the NHL.

Hughes, 24, has five goals and 20 assists and 109 penalty minutes in 173 games for Hartford over the past three seasons.

With McIlrath and J.T. Miller, who agreed to a two-year, $5.5 million deal on Thursday, re-signing, the Rangers now only have arbitration hearings set with Chris Kreider (July 22) and Kevin Hayes (July 27). It also leaves the Rangers with approximately $8.9 million in salary cap space.

Email: grossa@northjersey.com