Rangers’ shortsighted thinking on roster could cost them the promising Kravtsov

What a difference 24 hours makes. A day ago, I was very excited to post my half glass full expectations for an improved New York Rangers who begin play at old Patrick Division rival Washington on Tuesday night. While that should still be a box office draw for TNT, who debut their NHL coverage in just over 24 hours, the news that came down several hours ago was extremely disappointing.

Of course, I’m referring to the shortsighted decision by the Rangers organization to send down Vitali Kravtsov. When it was initially revealed by the beat reporters two nights ago, I didn’t have a good feeling. It felt wrong. That’s because the former 2018 first round pick belongs on the 23-man roster. A gifted player who is still only 21, the ninth pick of that NHL Draft showed some flashes of why Rangers brass like him towards the end of last season. Although he only was credited with two goals and two assists (really three if you recall the Devil game) in his first 20 NHL games, the right wing looked the part.

Maybe that’s why it’s so mind numbing that the organization foolishly kept ninth defenseman Libor Hajek and bit forward Dryden Hunt over him. Cutting Kravtsov, who only two years ago hated going to Hartford so much that he wound up back in Russia playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL, was not the wisest decision. Especially after what Team President and GM Chris Drury told Kravtsov a month ago before training camp. According to USA Today’s Vince Mercogliano, he felt the talented Russian would be on the roster. So, they didn’t include him as part of the brief Rookie Prospects games against the Flyers.

Fast forward to today’s news that Kravtsov not surprisingly didn’t report to Hartford. TSN insider Elliotte Friedman broke the story that the Rangers informed Kravtsov and his agent they have permission to seek a trade with other clubs. It really feels like a very stubborn idea that reeks of Glen Sather, whose dark shadowy ghost won’t go away from Madison Square Garden. So, they really want to throw away a good prospect who is said to have interested suitors, for a depth forward and a young defenseman, who’s blocked? If this seems logical, I’d like to hear why.

It’s disturbing how shortsighted this organization is. They’re so afraid of their shadow that they’d rather not lose Hajek or Hunt to waivers than keep Kravtsov, who scored a goal in his preseason return. Even Julien Gauthier, who I feel can have a role due to the flashes he shows, didn’t score in any tuneup. Explain to me what the heck is going on at Penn Plaza. Combine this puzzling news with the possibility that the Rangers will go with six alternates if you believe Gerard Gallant after he promised to name a captain, and you can’t help but wonder why this team operates the way it does.

Whatever optimism there is about the ’21-22 season is still there. But these two subjects aren’t going away if they don’t sit down with Kravtsov and do the right thing and keep him. This isn’t Lias Andersson. They’re not even in the same stratosphere. Oh btw Andersson had a good preseason with the Kings and made the roster. How’s Brett Howden doing these days in Vegas? He’ll start on the fourth line when they likely blow the doors off the Kraken on ESPN later tonight.

The second part would be surprising the press and fans on Thursday by introducing the new team captain at The Garden before they host the Stars. I felt that what Gallant told the media might be a smokescreen. But after this unnecessary chaos with Kravtsov, I’m not so sure anymore. They have to keep everyone in the dark second-guessing. That’s typical Sather. This doesn’t feel right. Nobody knows what’s happening. I thought those days had passed. Apparently not from an Original Six franchise that had no sense of humor if you follow their social media accounts.

The other thing that’s gripping is the way they could’ve handled it. Why the heck did they trade Pavel Buchnevich if they were going to give Kravtsov the shaft? They freed up spots for Kaapo Kakko, who’s looked primed for a breakout season, and Kravtsov, who should be on the third line with Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow. Instead, they look like they would prefer to weaken themselves over some silly waivers nonsense for a disappointment in Hajek, who is never going to play. No disrespect intended to Hajek,who probably is an NHL player. But he failed to live up to expectations like Howden after that Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller trade. Only Nils Lundkvist is left once Hajek goes. Karl Henriksson is a longshot down the line.

The roster for now looks like this:


Mika Zibanejad

Ryan Strome

Filip Chytil

Kevin Rooney


Alexis Lafreniere

Artemi Panarin

Barclay Goodrow

Sammy Blais


Chris Kreider

Kaapo Kakko

Julien Gauthier

Ryan Reaves

Dryden Hunt


Adam Fox

Ryan Lindgren

Jacob Trouba

K’Andre Miller

Patrik Nemeth

Nils Lundkvist

Jarred Tinordi

Libor Hajek


Igor Shesterkin

Alex Georgiev

In regards to the current 23-man roster, I don’t feel it’s set in stone. Drury was actively looking to move Hajek. Or maybe I should rephrase it to desperately. I never understood qualifying and re-signing him. What were they expecting his role to be? Once they signed both Nemeth and Tinordi, who ironically will play over Lundkvist in the highly anticipated game at the Capitals, there’s no place for him. How incredulous.

It really dampens the mood. It feels like they’re putting too much emphasis on tomorrow’s game. Will there be more retribution for resident bad boy Tom Wilson? Maybe. Whether it’s Reaves or Tinordi, who knows how dirty the power forward can be, figure something will happen. I’d also include Garnet Hathaway, who’s a tough customer. T.J. Oshie can also get physically involved. A very respected player. Goodrow won’t back down either.

The thing is if it really is supposed to be temporary, then why not put Kravtsov on the roster so he can play Thursday? The whole thing is a mess. Let’s hope Kravtsov doesn’t go anywhere. That cooler heads will prevail.

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 Rangers’ shortsighted thinking on roster could cost them the promising Kravtsov

  1. Sorry, I disagree with you start to finish. Yes, this doesn’t look so great but optics aren’t everything. You have a kid who may or may not have been told to sit tight for a week in the minors and once they do something with Hajek they will bring him up. Only he and Barron (who deserves to be on the squad) had waiver exemptions and they didn’t want to lose players for nothing through waivers. The fact that Gallant inferred that he didn’t make the squad was just posturing IMO to trade Hajek or someone else to keep their value higher. Kravtsov is a talented player but he is also an immature baby who sulks when he doesn’t get his way. He did it a couple of years ago and he’s doing it again this year. If his attitude doesn’t change he is the type of player that won’t survive in this league. If the team feels that a 20 or 21 year old kid would be better served for a couple of weeks in the minors or if they ask you to help for the good of the team then you do what they ask, you prove them wrong by dominating and then you get called back up to stay. But in this case in my opinion he would have been back up in a week after they find out if they could trade Hajek. Simple. You sacrifice for a week or so and then you come back up and take care of business. He’s a prima donna that doesn’t yet realize he has a lot to learn and and that his talent although very high means nothing if you don’t produce which until this point he hasn’t.
    I like the player but I don’t like the attitude and if this is how he is going to act if he is asked to go down or if he isn’t in the top 6 (which he stated he feels he deserves) then why would you want someone on the team like that. The Rangers won’t trade him without getting some value out of it although it won’t be equal value. He has permission to seek one but that doesn’t mean it’s a given. The kid has no options right now. He has no choice but to report to Hartford or not report and get suspended. He does not have an out to play in Russia and keep his eligibility (and the Rangers will still own his rights). I’d rather have a player who wants to be here and who will work his ass off than a prima donna who hasn’t proven anything yet and who will always complain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Felix says:

      I appreciate your comment. Where we disagree is how this organization only treats certain players with respect. Nils Lundkvist has been here a minute and they handed him the job over Jones, who looks to be better. They cater towards certain guys. It’s a joke. What has Nils exactly done? He can’t defend. He can contribute offense. If he doesn’t, that trade is a disaster. They’re trying to save face. They always run smear jobs. Even the well liked Ryan Callahan couldn’t escape it. I hate the way they’re run. It stinks.

      They are again using Brooks and the Post to air dirty laundry. While I agree with your point on Kravtsov, I don’t blame him. Choosing Hunt over him? And hanging onto Hajek. It is a bad situation. I agree Vitali needs to mature and prove himself. But he looked better than Kakko at times in only 20 games. It just seems like another waste of asset management by a team that specializes in it.

      That’s disappointing.


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