After a solid rookie season with the Rangers in 2011-12, defenseman Stu Bickel reached unrestricted free agency on July 1st. But it did not take him long to return to the Rangers, agreeing to terms with the Blueshirts on the first day of NHL free agency.
Bickel appeared in 51 games this past season after making his NHL debut against the Devils on December 20th. Bickel notched a pair of penalty minutes in his debut and finished the season third on the team with 108 penalty minutes.
After notching points in each of his first three NHL games---for a total of four points---Bickel ended up with nine points (all assists) in his rookie campaign. He was also a plus-two.
The popular Bickel appeared in 18 of the Rangers' 20 playoff games this past spring and was scoreless with 16 penalty minutes.
The Rangers originally acquired the undrafted Bickel from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade for defenseman Nigel Williams on November 23, 2010. Bickel, who spent one year at the University of Minnesota, played more than three seasons at the minor league level---splitting time between the AHL and ECHL---before reaching the NHL with the Rangers at the age of 25 this past December.
The re-signing of Bickel means that the Rangers defense corps currently features six players under the age of 28---with Dan Girardi the elder statesman. The group also includes 22 year-old Michael Del Zotto, who is currently a restricted free agent, and 24 year-old Michael Sauer, who missed the second half of last season because of a concussion. It is rounded out by 23 year-old Ryan McDonagh and 25 year-old Marc Staal. Anton Stralman, another 25 year-old blueliner, is unsigned, but received a qualifying offer from the team last week.
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