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:
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.