Rangers quiet before roster freeze for Vegas Expansion Draft

Jonathan Drouin

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) is congratulated by the bench after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Islanders, Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The last two days, plenty of trade rumors were the focus with the roster freeze coming in anticipation of the Las Vegas Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights will begin selecting players from all 30 NHL rosters beginning tomorrow. The expansion draft will last three days with the final Vegas roster to be revealed at the NHL Awards show at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Among the teams rumored to be in discussions are the Rangers. However, GM Jeff Gorton wasn’t able to finalize anything before today’s 3 PM deadline. There had been talk that Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta could be moving to the Coyotes. But it remains just that for now.

Negotiations take time. Something there wasn’t a lot of entering the trade freeze. So, not many major deals went down. The Canadiens made the biggest splash yesterday landing Jonathan Drouin from the Lightning for Montreal D prospect Mikhail Sergachev with an exchange of a conditional second round pick going to Tampa with the Habs receiving a conditional sixth in 2018.

Montreal stayed busy today sending puck moving left defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to the Sabres for a 2017 third round pick. A nice move by new Buffalo GM Jason Botterill. He gets a solid second pair D who can fly for a third rounder in not a deep draft. Beaulieu should bolster the Sabres’ blueline. Along with the smart hiring of new coach Phil Housley, who was terrific as an assistant with Nashville, it’s been a good week for Buffalo. Things are looking up.

In another deal, Calgary acquired starting goalie Mike Smith from Arizona in exchange for Chad Johnson, Brandon Hickey and a conditional third round pick which can become a second if the Flames make the playoffs next season. The Coyotes did the Flames a favor by retaining 25 percent of Smith’s salary. He is set to earn $6 million in ’17-18 and $5 million in ’18-19 with a cap hit of $5.67 million.

The Ducks bought out defenseman Simon Despres. Acquired from Pittsburgh a couple of years ago for Ben Lovejoy, he was often injured and bitten by the concussion bug. He played in only one game this past season. Despres is 25. Given the state of his health, I wonder if he’ll retire. That would be sad. But it might be best long term.

There really hasn’t been much else going on. Just a lot of talk but little action. Minnesota was in on Drouin but lost out. They were unable to unload any of their defensemen. Both Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella could be on the move. The Bruins were said to be targeting Brodin, who’s signed thru 2021 to a nice contract. Boston could send the Wild their first pick (18th overall) for Brodin. We’ll see. Supposedly, Montreal had interest in Scandella after dealing Beaulieu.

Also of note, Ottawa didn’t move any defensemen either. The candidates are Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf. Ceci has one year remaining while Phaneuf is signed thru 2021.

Aa far as the impatience with the Rangers from some fans, relax. It takes time. I have no idea what this means for Raanta. It’s worth noting soon to be former Pen Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t moved yet either after waiving his no-trade clause following their repeat. He said he’ll miss everything about Pittsburgh. He sounds like a great teammate and would be a good pickup for anyone.

Las Vegas is going to wind up with a good goalie. It’s just a question of who GM George McPhee wants.

I would like to see Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg stay Rangers. Both are key components on the checking line who add depth. I also love Michael Grabner. If you have to follow one current Ranger, follow Grabner’s account. He’s a riot.




About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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