Hartnett: Which Rangers Might Be Gone By End Of NHL Draft?

Sean Hartnett
June 19, 2019 - 3:27 pm
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There’s genuine intrigue surrounding the Rangers in the lead up to the 2019 NHL Draft – and it has little to do with whether Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko remains on the draft board after the Devils make the first overall selection.

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As I’ve stated before, the Rangers are in a no-pressure situation following the Devils. If Hughes is still available, the Rangers will possess an excellent one-two punch with Mike Zibanejad and Hughes centering the top two forward lines. Should the Devils go the expected route by drafting Hughes first overall, the Rangers will have an NHL-ready, top-six wing who has already proven his ability to dominate against elite defensemen.

The real drama hinges on which familiar faces will no longer be Rangers once day two of the draft wraps up on Saturday. Though Jeff Gorton has ample cap room to work with, he’s going to pursue trades that clear salary and possibly exercise a buyout or two to give the Blueshirts the best chance of acquiring key free agent targets.

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Artemi Panarin is at the top of the Rangers’ wishlist. Newly-acquired no. 1 defenseman Jacob Trouba is a restricted free agent. Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo are also among the Rangers’ RFAs.

Given all of these needs, it’s imperative for the Rangers to free up funds. Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey and Vladislav Namestnikov are names to keep a close eye on in the coming days.

The Rangers' Chris Kreider shoots against the Edmonton Oilers on March 3, 2018, at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Canada.
USA TODAY Images

Kreider is entering the final year of his contract at a $4.625 million and is going to be in high demand. Vesey has one year left on his deal at $2.275 million. Namestnikov will be more difficult to trade given his exorbitant cap hit of $4 million. The Rangers might have to retain a little salary to move the 26-year-old forward.

Buchnevich’s name hasn’t disappeared from the rumor mill even after he wasn’t required to land Trouba. If the Rangers dangle the high-potential wing at draft weekend, the return must be head-turning.

Here’s another name to consider: Ryan Strome. Eventually, the Rangers’ crowd of young centers and wings will bump him out of the lineup. Why not trade Strome now while his stock is high?

The exciting addition of Trouba got the pulses of Rangers fans racing, but it’s just the start with significant roster alterations to come in the near future and July 1 free agency around the corner.

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