This is expected to be a summer full of change for the New York Rangers, but before any of that can happen, the team needs to go through the expansion draft -- where Las Vegas will be able to take an unprotected player from the Rangers with nothing being exchanged back to Broadway.
Every NHL team will lose a single player, and every team has their own list they’re wrestling with to try and soften the blow as much as possible.
Before we dig into this article, let’s run through the expansion draft rules quickly (provided by the NHL):
* Clubs will have two options for players they wish to protect in the Expansion Draft:
a) Seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender
b) Eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender
* All players who have currently effective and continuing "No Movement" clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who to decline to waive such clauses) must be protected (and will be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).
* All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection (and will not be counted toward their club's applicable protection limits).
Player Exposure Requirements
* All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:
i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
ii) Two forwards who are a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.
iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club's protected list.
Keeping this in mind, here are the players the Rangers will most likely be leaving exposed this summer (my own speculation):
Notable forwards to be exposed: Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast
Notable defenseman to be exposed: Kevin Klein and Nick Holden
Notable goalie to be exposed: Antti Raanta
Other notes: Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Rick Nash, and Henrik Lundqvist all must be protected due to their no movement clauses. Brendan Smith will be left unprotected, but because he’s unsigned there’s virtually no chance he’s selected by Vegas. At least one of Lindberg, Fast, Matt Puempel or Brandon Pirri needs to be signed to an extension to fulfill the two forward requirements with at least a single year left on their contract.
Now, while Las Vegas has to select a player from each team, there are ways to manipulate who they take. For example: The Rangers could send picks and/or prospects to Vegas to ensure they take Holden or Klein. That would go a long way toward helping the Rangers lose a salary/player who doesn’t fit.
Thinking about doing that is one thing. Actually being able to pull it off is another.
What you have to realize when you walk down this path is you’re not enticing Vegas to take a player, you’re enticing them to leave a player. This isn’t about Vegas getting Holden and a mid-level pick or prospect. This is about leaving a potential starting goaltender or a 27-goal scorer off their roster. To assume it would cost a throwaway pick or prospect is a mistake.
I am quite sure Vegas will be having quite a few of these discussions over the next few weeks. But remember: Vegas has all the leverage. If a team comes to them with a package to avoid a player, Vegas has all the power. If they like what they see on the table then it works for both sides. If they don’t, then they can tell the other team to pound sand, or demand they increase their offer. Generating these types of discussions would only signal to Vegas that Jeff Gorton doesn’t have any other options and is to be had.
Think about it from Vegas’ point of view. What would it take to allow you to pass up on Raanta or Grabner? A second round pick? A first round pick? What about Lindberg or Fast?
If you’re willing to pay to keep them, that means the price tag needs to be high enough to warrant Vegas not to take them. It’s a road the Rangers might be better off not walking down.
Because it won’t be as easy as you might think.