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Claesson Looks to Take Extra Step With Rangers

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Fredrik Claesson will be joining a new team for 2018-19, but there will be familiar faces there to greet him.

The defenseman, whom the Rangers agreed to terms with on a one-year deal on Sunday, has an extensive history with his fellow countryman Mika Zibanejad dating back to their time in Sweden through their time as roommates in the American Hockey League and in Ottawa with the Senators.

"I know that guy well and I'm excited to play with him again," Claesson told by phone on Monday. "He texted me yesterday. He was extremely happy for me. He said [New York] is a great place to play and that I was going to love it."

Claesson, who also played with Jesper Fast on different Swedish national teams, said he feels the situation in New York and the rebuild the team is undertaking, affords him the chance to progress as a player at this point in his career.

"I feel like the strength of my game is as a stay at home D. I break up the puck and give a good first pass and I hit a lot," Claesson said. "I want to improve in the offensive zone and jump up [in the play] more. I have a pretty good shot. That's something I need to do better."

Claesson, 25, said he's excited to call Madison Square Garden home after playing in the arena as an opponent over the years with the Senators.

"It's a good place to play," said Claesson, who had a goal and six assists last season. "It feels like you get extra energy going into those games and you're excited [to play there.] Playing in New York, it's something I think everyone wants to do. The city is incredible."

Claesson is coming off his first full season in the NHL after appearing in 64 games last season with the Senators. The fifth round selection in the 2011 draft said he hopes to show the Blueshirts that he belongs in the NHL.

"I want to take that extra step and to play more and getting better," he said. "I'm trying to improve and help the team. Hopefully I can get some minutes going and prove to [the Rangers] that I can play in this league."

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