Editor’s Note: This is going to be a running series taking a look at the players the Rangers might lose to expansion and the issues that surround each potential player lost. We’ll try to take a look at things from a Las Vegas standpoint to see who they might want to pick.
The Player: Oscar Lindberg
The Contract: Current RFA
The Season: 8-12-20 in 65 games played | 3-1-4 in 12 playoff games.
I made a note on the Jesper Fast article about his current RFA situation. It applies to Lindberg as well, so I’m copying over my explanation from his story.
Before I really go into everything when it comes to Fast I want to make something clear: Fast is eligible to get selected in expansion because of his past games played but still needs to be signed to at least a one-year contract by the Rangers to fulfill all the requirements. The Rangers need to have two such forwards — Michael Grabner is one already — so expect Fast and Oscar Lindberg to get offers this summer so that they fit this rule.
If Fast is offered a one- or two-year deal, and retains his RFA status, then Las Vegas will get his ownership if he’s selected. If Fast is signed to a longer deal that pulls him out of his RFA years, then Vegas obviously gets the contract and then he’s a UFA at the end of it.
The Summary: Lindberg made his first true mark on the NHL last year when he jumped out of the gate as a man who literally could not stop scoring goals. As a player who seasoned in the SHL for four years before he seasoned for a full two years in the AHL, the 25-year-old has a level of professional experience to rival a grizzled veteran.
There was (and maybe still is) an expectation for Lindberg to develop into a 40ish point player in the NHL. In his two years in the AHL he was a 0.67 PPG player and in his final two SHL years (I’m tossing his first two years where he was a teenager in a men’s league) he had a 0.51 PPG mark. Those numbers haven’t followed him to New York, but that’s not entirely his fault.
The savvy two-way center has been thrust into a fourth line role under Alain Vigneault’s guidance, and he’s done the job he’s needed to in such a position. There is reason to believe Lindberg should be the guy who is getting the top-nine looks over Fast, but they never materialized.
As a center, Lindberg may play a critical role moving forward (if he’s still around). He’s in the prime of his career, has shown the ability to break out, and was a very important player down the stretch for the Rangers. Keeping him from Vegas is going to be difficult.
Why he’d be attractive for Las Vegas to select: Lindberg is a center, and you can never have too much center depth in the NHL. Mike made a comment that goalies were like batteries in a storm on the podcast last week in regards to the Antti Raanta situation, but Vegas might choose to look at centers the same way. While there are restrictions to the numbers of raw position players Vegas can take, there’s no limit on how many of those players can be a center or a winger. And while you don’t want to load up a team with seven centers, having depth down the middle is a widely accepted good idea.
Lindberg fits into what Vegas might be looking for perfectly. He’s young, is great in his own end, and has the potential to add offense. While we haven’t seen him in a pure, extended top-nine role, there’s little doubt he could fit there well. Especially on a team where he can be groomed and management can be patient with him. At every level of professional hockey, when given an top-tier opportunity, he has met and even exceeded expectations. There’s no reason to assume he won’t in the NHL. And at the very worst, Lindberg can be a solid fourth line defensive specialist.
Why Las Vegas might stay away: To me, Lindberg is at the top of the pile in terms of actual long-term value to Vegas on the Rangers. He has top-nine upside, can take care of his own end, and is already a solid depth player.
Here’s the three ways I can see Lindberg not taken (from most plausible to least):
1) Vegas wants to go with Raanta. (More on this below.)
2) Vegas gets bribed to take Nick Holden. (This won’t be easy, and I also don’t expect it to happen.)
3) Vegas values Fast’s speed/current polish more than Lindberg’s overall potential.
Joe’s Guess: Outside of a bribe, I still think Raanta is the smartest pick here, but Marc Andre Fleury waiving his NMC for Vegas only does complicate things. Unless Vegas is going to get him to trade him, bringing in Fleury means they have no real need for a one-year backup (even if he’s one of the better backups in the league). Especially since I can’t see Raanta sticking around after his one-year left expires without the keys to the net being dangled in front of him.
So I do think Lindberg is the pick here for Vegas. Which would, of course, be bad for the Rangers.