Sami Bliss is looking forward.
anterior cruciate ligament tear who prematurely ended his first season with the Rangers After only 14 games in the past. He even politely refused to get into the obvious dirty game like today from former defender BK Suban who prevented him from playing a role in Rangers’ best season in seven years, which included a thrilling fight to the conference final. . For Blais, it’s all about picking up where he left off and taking advantage of another opportunity to bring his game to the NHL team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
I’ll be ready to go,” Blaise told The Post in a recent phone interview. “So when I start training camp, I have to be myself and I have to be the same player I was before.”
Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury has re-signed Blais — who came to New York as a featured comeback in the July 2021 trade that sent Pavel Buchnevich to St. Louis — to a one-year, $1.525 million deal early this season. . It was $25,000 for a player who only had a sampling of gaming volume in the red, white and blue jersey – but it does indicate how much Drury and coach Gerard Gallant thought the 26-year-old winger.
“He played in the league for a while,” Gallant said of Blaise, whose 176th pick in the 2014 draft. “He was mostly a player in grade four in St. Louis, a little bit ahead of grade three, but he’s one of those guys who’s in good hands, we see, and he’s a huge force forward.”
Bliss admitted it was impressive to suffer the first knee injury of his career at the start of what was a contract year, but the hardest part of rehab wasn’t about the team as much as he would have liked. He made a conscious effort to be as part of the season as he could.
Once he was able to walk well, Blais attended most home games. When the team was training at the Training Center in Tarrytown, Blais was always working at the same time. Although he missed some road trips during the regular season, he brought Rangers Blaise to St. Louis in mid-March so he could see his former teammates and visit the organization with which he spent the first four seasons of his National Hockey League career.
Blais then traveled with the Rangers in the playoffs, starting with the Carolina Series, when he began skating with the team in the morning skates.
“I wanted to prove to everyone that they made a good trading choice for me, and it was really hard to walk away from the team,” Bliss said. “I didn’t get as close to the players as I wanted so it was kind of hard to be away from the game. But I’m doing really well now. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the ice with the guys in training camp.”
Asked if he was feeling pressure to prove he was a good comeback in a deal for Buchnevich, who has been a goalkeeper for five seasons and a key member of the squad, Blais said he didn’t look at it that way.
“When I was traded, they told me they really liked the way I played and that they needed that in the Rangers,” he said. “For me, I would have come here to do my job and play like I was playing in St. Louis. That’s what they wanted me to do, and I will continue to do the same.”
Bliss, who was home in Quebec for two weeks before returning to spend most of the summer in New York, was skiing on the right wing of the top row next to Mika Zibanijad and Chris Kreider when he was injured. Although he was primarily brought in to work as a lower sixth, Blais proved to have a soft set of hands to go with his blue-collar playing style.
In addition to 17 minutes of penalty kicks, Bliss sent four assists and made 17 shots in 14 games while the Rangers tightened and played along the walls.
“His physical [and] “His level of competition is what we all want to play for,” teammate Barkley Goudreau said of Blaise earlier in the season. “That’s what I think our group is striving for. He’s one of the toughest hitters I’ve ever seen, to be honest. He’s a guy that D-men don’t want to play against, and that’s kind of contagious throughout the group.”
Blais should be the sixth choice again for the 2022-23 season, which kicks off at the end of September with the start of training camp. However, Gallant likes to add more agile players to his top two units, which he did with both Blais and Goodrow last season.
Part of the reason Blais landed first grade was Alexis Lafreniere’s inability to secure the place. That’s not to say Lafreniere won’t be able to get the job this season, but Rangers will certainly hope the previous first-choice general will be able to keep Blais in the bottom sixth position and thus balance the squad.
“Honestly, I think we have it all here,” Blaise said when asked about his rating for Rangers. “I think in the last year, obviously I didn’t play, but I was watching all the games. They were playing really well and watching them play, I was like, ‘We have a really good team, and I want to be a part of it.'” But I think just keep working hard. And I think if we do that, we can beat any team in this league.”