The New York Rangers have easy decisions at forward and defense in theory. Early on, there was some talk of protecting eight skaters and one goalie. That would include four defensemen and four forwards. However, from a numbers standpoint, the 7F/3D/1G setup benefits New York. It would allow them to protect their more borderline forwards. Those forwards feature some potential as well as depth.
There is some definite inklings that the 7F/3D/1G approach may be used. That will be the scenario used here.
Who among the bottom six is worth getting those exemptions?
Ultimately, we’re talking about a team that has depth to burn. The Jesper Fast injury (hip surgery) should only cause him to miss the first month at the most. It will take him time to get back in form but that should not scare off Las Vegas.
It appears that J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes will also be protected. Both Miller and Hayes have their moments of lackluster play but they are on the younger side of their careers. This means three players which could attract the eyes of Vegas.
At 29, Michael Grabner is the oldest of these three but has speed to burn and can back any defense up. The forward seems to be a human breakaway at any time. He scored 27 goals last season too which has to entice Las Vegas.
Oscar Lindberg is still in his mid 20’s and may not have much of a role with New York other than a fourth line forward again this upcoming season. His stock is on the rise with a solid showing at the World Championships for Team Sweden (Gold medal). However, the real gem may be Jesper Fast.
Fast is one of the few forwards in the league that can play on any line and not look out of place. Think of how Brayden Schenn is deployed in Philadelphia for a second. Yes, the injury is significant but this is for the long term. George McPhee could have a real gem on his hands and not have to spend as much.
GM Jeff Gorton has mostly easy decisions here. The toughest part is deciding does he use a protected slot for Fast. It appears like he will not at this time. That leaves Fast, Lindberg, and Grabner as the odd men out here. There could be a trade between now and then but not likely yet.
Ryan McDonagh is the no-brainer to protect with significant value. After that, it comes down to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. If one were to waive their NMC then that could change things.
That is the only decision on defense that needs to be made. If Girardi and Staal do as expected, then the protects are set. There is little else to talk about at that point.
If only three defensemen are exempt from Las Vegas, then it will be Nick Holden and Kevin Klein who get dangled like carrots.
This is another guilt free decision as Henrik Lundqvist is the starter and Antti Raanta is the backup. The backup has one year left on his deal at $1,000,000. He has shown to be a very good understudy and might interest Las Vegas some. It all comes down to how the Golden Knights fill their roster.
Projected protected players and their cap hits
Rick Nash (M-NTC, NMC) – $7.8M through 2018
Derek Stepan (NTC) – $6.5M through 2021
Chris Kreider – $4.625M through 2020
Mats Zucarello – $4.5M through 2019
JT Miller – $2.75M through 2018
Mika Zibanejad – restricted free agent
Kevin Hayes – $2.6M through 2018
Ryan McDonagh (M-NTC) – $4.7M through 2019
Marc Staal (NMC) – $5.5M through 2020
Dan Girardi (M-NTC, NMC) – $2.66M through 2019
Henrik Lundqvist – $8.5M through 2021
Top two options on who they would most likely lose
Will Jesper Fast be protected or not? That might open the door on Fast. However, the two most likely choices appear to be Grabner and Raanta. That could change at the time draws closer to the expansion draft. Fast is our dark horse pick here and for good reason. Versatility is essential on an expansion team.
If New York were to make a trade with Vegas to select/not select a player, who would it be and why.
I think New York is hoping that Dan Girardi or Marc Staal answer their prayers but that is unlikely. There has been a rumor or two concerning Mika Zibanejad but that carries little weight or legs. However, a Raanta trade is plausible as well. New York goaltending is thin and if Lundqvist gets hurt again, that insurance policy is sorely needed. The Rangers have Igor Shestyorkin in the wings but you need depth too just in case. A trade to Vegas involving Raanta is possible at this juncture. With a few moving parts, guessing New York’s potential moves is a crap shoot.
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