The New York Rangers find themselves in a comfortable position heading into the upcoming NHL Seattle Expansion draft. Each team except for the Vegas Golden Knights stands to lose one player in the draft. The draft takes place on July 21st and teams must submit their list by 5 p.m. est on July 17th. The teams have the option to protect 7F/3D/1G or 8 skaters and a goalie. Players with NTC or NMC must be protected unless both sides agree to the player waiving the clause.
Having most of their players exempt from the draft enables the Rangers to expose players they can replace from within or via free agency. This is not to diminish their abilities; they are important players who offer a specific skill set essential to playoff success.
Those with NTC or NMC are forwards Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and defenseman Jacob Trouba. They have twenty-four players exempt from the draft, leaving them in a fantastic position. Most likely they will opt for the 7F/3D/1G model.
Defense and Goaltenders
Defense and goalie are the easiest protection list to project. Tony DeAngelo has no bearing on the outcome. He can be left unprotected. If Seattle does not pick him, he can be bought out at minimal cost. Trouba is a given and Norris trophy winner, Adam Fox is exempt, but partner Ryan Lindgren is not and will be protected. Libor Hajek appears to be the front runner for the final spot unless they value the versatility of Mason Geersten. Geersten is a huge, physical, stay-at-home defenseman/ fourth-line forward with strong character and protects his teammates at all costs. He is not a goon, does not run around to start fights, and plays an honest, hardworking game. Chances are Hajek is protected because Geersten will not be selected.
In the crease, 1A goalie Igor Shestyorkin is exempt leaving RFA Alexandar Georgiev and veteran Keith Kincaid to be exposed. Georgiev is only 25 and barring something bizarre, will be protected. Kincaid was signed for this purpose, filled in well, provided leadership, and was a good soldier.
Having to protect Panarin, Kreider, and Zibanejad, centers Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil. RFA winger Pavel Buchnevich should be locked leaving one spot to fill.
This is where it becomes somewhat contentious. Brett Howden did the Rangers a favor in agreeing to a contract on Friday, July 9th. This enables them to leave him exposed. Panarin pushed hard to have micro grunt, Colin Blackwell on his opposite wing. He is 28 and on a cheap contract but may not be the type of player Seattle GM Ron Francis covets. Another 28-year-old forward is Kevin Rooney. A center who does the dirty work on the bottom two lines and kills penalties. He provides grit, energy and is fantastic on the penalty kill. Phil Di Giuseppe was selected in the 2nd round by Carolina in 2012. Seattle GM Ron Francis was Director of Hockey Operations then and has some familiarity with Phil. Di Giuseppe is a solid 4th line player and penalty killer with speed and a high motor. Julien Gauthier was selected in the first round in the 2016 draft by Carolina while Francis was the GM. Julien turns 24 in October, is a huge power forward with tremendous speed. The jury is out on him regarding his play. Was he not a Quinn guy or did he simply not “get it” as far as what the team expected? From the outside, it appeared former head coach Quinn would bench Gauthier when he made any mistake. This infuriated the fan base. The kid has great tools and maybe a change in coaching is what Julien needs. He seems to be a Gerard Gallant type of player.
It appears the final forward spot is between Blackwell and Gauthier. Do the Rangers risk losing a promising young player in Gauthier or an older Panarin favorite in Blackwell? Unless something occurs soon or a wink-wink trade is made the two lists are as follows:
The Rangers are in fine shape and do not stand to lose a player that will cripple their roster. Barring any trades, they are well-positioned to move forward without being hurt in the expansion draft. Maybe Seattle takes DeAngelo in hopes that his contract helps them make it to the cap floor. In any case, this should be uneventful and stress-free for NYR fans and the organization.
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