Brandon Pirri’s status as a Ranger went from being an important fourth-line and power-play piece of the team’s potent, diversified attack over the season’s first five weeks to a spot on the taxi squad during the playoffs.
Now, after failing to receive a qualifying offer from the Blueshirts and credible interest around the NHL as a free agent, the 26-year-old forward is going to Switzerland for 2017-18 in joining one-time New York teammate Kevin Klein on the ZSC Lions.
It is conceivable that Pirri — whose shoot-first mentality has produced 57 goals in 226 career games with the Blackhawks, Panthers, Ducks and Rangers — could sign with an NHL club at the conclusion of his year in Europe. The Ontario native also would have to be considered a candidate to play for Team Canada in the 2018 Olympics.
Signed as a free agent last summer to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million, Pirri provided a distinct early-season boost to the offense as the Blueshirts bolted to a 13-4 start through Nov. 15 while scoring 72 goals (4.2 per) that included 57 at even strength, 13 on the power play and two while shorthanded.
Pirri, a fourth-line and man-advantage staple, was on for nine even-strength goals and seven PPGs over that stretch while recording a plus-six rating. But deficient away from the puck, in his own end and in his one-on-one compete level, Pirri faded rather quickly.
He was on the ice for only 13 even-strength goals and 10 PPGs over his final 43 games in going minus-14 and completed the season with 18 points (8-10) in 60 games. Pirri was scratched 20 times in a 29-game span starting in early February until he dressed for the final three matches.
Pirri primarily skated in separate sessions with the call-ups from Hartford (and Adam Clendening) during the Rangers’ practices during the playoffs.