Protection Lists Due Saturday, Rangers add Mike Kelly and Gord Murphy to coaching staff, Panthers buyout Yandle, Devils trade for Ryan Graves and re-sign Mike McLeod

It’s the quiet before the storm. In anticipation of next Wednesday’s Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft on July 21, teams are preparing for a hectic off-season. Each of the 31 teams will lose an unprotected player off their roster to Seattle. The 32nd NHL team will submit their picks at 10 AM next Wednesday. It’ll be revealed at 8 PM on ESPN2.

In less than 48 hours, protection lists are due at 5 PM on Saturday. The transaction freeze goes into effect at 3 PM. Right now, moves are being made in preparation. That includes the re-signing of free agents and buyouts of select players. Trades can also be made.

While there’s been little activity, business will pick up leading up to the weekend. Especially with teams needing to be ready with their protection lists along with who’s available. It helps that certain players are exempt due to their status on an entry level contract.

The Rangers have some decisions to make. Will it be Brett Howden, Julien Gauthier or Colin Blackwell with Kevin Rooney likely available? Anthony Bitetto and Keith Kinkaid will be eligible due to having one more year on their deals. Rooney is also very cheap. A solid fourth line center and penalty killer, he only is due $750,000. That makes him a good candidate to get selected. Who would you keep between Blackwell, Gauthier and Howden? Only Gauthier is a restricted free agent while Blackwell and Howden are under contract. We’ll see what Chris Drury decides.

In team news, the Rangers officially hired Mike Kelly and Gord Murphy as assistant coaches on Gerard Gallant’s staff. They’re still looking to hire one more assistant. Kelly has been with Gallant before In Vegas and Florida. Murphy was an associate head coach in Hartford while briefly filling a role when COVID hit David Quinn and his coaching staff. He’s been an NHL assistant before with the Blue Jackets, Panthers and Flyers.

This is nothing earth shattering. It is just an NHL team filling out their coaching personnel. Who replaces David Oliver? We’ll see. At least goalie coach Benoit Allaire remains with the organization. He’s been instrumental to the goaltending tree that once included Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot, Antti Raanta and currently Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev.

Heck. Even Steve Valiquette benefitted from Allaire’s expertise. Even if his NHL career lasted only 46 games. Thirty-nine came as a Ranger including his best season in ’07-08 when he won five games while posting a 2.19 GAA, .916 save percentage and two shutouts. Now he still references that NHL career during telecasts on MSG Network. You can’t help but chuckle. 

The biggest news items so far are the Wild buyouts of twins Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. There’s no reason to rehash it. See Hasan’s piece on the best friends who got those ridiculous 13-year contracts in the summer of 2012. I know all too well how he felt towards Parise for leaving New Jersey following a run to the Stanley Cup Final. Of course, Parise has been linked to the Islanders, who nearly traded for him last year. Given his previous relationship with current Islanders Team President and GM Lou Lamoriello, it would be no surprise if the veteran American signs with the Isles. Their cap situation isn’t great. We’ll see.

In another important news item, Keith Yandle was bought out by the Panthers. After threatening to not play him before the abbreviated 56-game season, coach Joel Quenneville wound up dressing the well respected Yandle for all 56 to continue his consecutive games played streak. A remarkable streak that began on Mar. 26, 2009 continued through the conclusion of the regular season on May 10, 2021. Yandle has played in 922 consecutive games to place second behind NHL record holder Doug Jarvis. His record streak of 964 could be in jeopardy if Yandle finds a team who will play him regularly in ’21-22.

Unfortunately, the 34-year old Yandle fell off in his 15th season. His 27 points (3-24-27) over 56 games were down from the 45 he put up in 69 contests the previous year. One of the best offensive defensemen, Yandle remains effective on the power play where 18 of his 27 points came in his fifth season with the Panthers. Prior to signing with Florida long-term for an average cap hit of $6.35 million, he was a Ranger for over a year. He did well in ’14-15 during the playoffs by producing two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 19 games.

After they opted to trade his rights following a disappointing first round exit in 2016, Yandle signed through 2023 with the Cats. With two years remaining and strong indications that they wanted to go in a different direction, they bought out the final two years. The payout is divided over four years:

’21-22 $2,341,667

’22-23 $5,391,667

’23-24 $1,241,667

’24-25 $1,241,667

In related news, Anthony Duclair re-signed with the Panthers for three years, $9 million. It looks like the well traveled former Blueshirt has found a home. Ironically, he was the top prospect they parted with when they acquired Yandle as a two-year rental. Go figure. Duclair had since played for the Coyotes, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Senators before landing in Sunrise. Good for him.

In news that must’ve just broke, the Devils have acquired defenseman Ryan Graves from the Avalanche in exchange for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a 2021 second round pick. A solid physical left defenseman who the Rangers never gave a thought to, Graves has turned himself into a good NHL player. Due to a glut in their roster, Colorado wasn’t keeping him. The Devils took advantage to add a quality defenseman, who’ll probably replace Ryan Murray, who can become unrestricted later this month.

Graves, 26, is signed through 2023 at a reasonable AAV of $3.167 million. He can deliver big hits and contribute some offense from the blue line due to his heavy shot. It looks like a decent move by Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald. He did part with a decent player in Maltsev and the number 61 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. I’m sure Hasan will have more about it.

In related news, the Devils re-signed restricted free agent Mike McLeod to a multi-year deal. The average cap hit is $975,000.

I’ll have more on Shea Weber’s iffy NHL future due to the injuries he’s played through in Montreal. Plus anything else that happens this weekend.

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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2 Responses to Protection Lists Due Saturday, Rangers add Mike Kelly and Gord Murphy to coaching staff, Panthers buyout Yandle, Devils trade for Ryan Graves and re-sign Mike McLeod

  1. hasan4978 says:

    LOL he was a Ranger? I literally never heard of this guy till two hours ago so I have some catching up to do, you can’t really argue with getting a guy that has size/physicality that was good enough to play in Colorado’s top four though. I do wonder what this means for the expansion draft, do they expose Subban or Siegenthaler now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Felix says:

      Probably. Why protect Subban? Duchene is expected not to be protected either. Rangers drafted Graves in 2013 4th Round. Never gave him a look after The Letter. I wanted to see him play. They got zilch back too. He has good size, hits and plays 2nd pair. Third on a deep team. It’s a nice pickup.


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