Writing was on the wall last January for Nils Lundkvist, Rangers


When Nils Lundkvist finally put in a trade request this past week as reported by veteran New York Post columnist Larry Brooks, it wasn’t too surprising.

The writing was on the wall way back last January for Lundkvist and the Rangers. Once former 2020 first round pick Braden Schneider came up from Hartford and proved fully capable of handling key minutes on the third pair, there was no room for Lundkvist to stay.

Once thought of as the key final piece to the failed trade that sent former captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller over to the Lightning, the 22-year old Lundkvist was passed on the depth chart by Schneider to fall out of favor on Broadway.

Unlike former architect Jeff Gorton who drafted him late in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, current Rangers Team President and GM Chris Drury had no allegiance to Lundkvist. However, both Drury and snubbed Jack Adams candidate Gerard Gallant gave him the opportunity to sink or swim.

Unfortunately, Lundkvist never produced the kind of offense he was able to back home on the wider ice surface in Sweden. In 25 games, he scored one goal and added only three assists for a total of four points with the Rangers last season.

Not the biggest in stature, Lundkvist lost his roster spot to the more physical and steadier Schneider, who fit the bill under Gallant. In 43 games, the 20-year old defenseman showed poise and maturity while playing with the necessary edge the team needed.

Referred by teammates as Baby Troubs which is a nice compliment to new captain Jacob Trouba for his open ice hits, Schneider also showed the capability to make smart reads and jump into the play. He tallied two goals and nine assists for 11 points over 43 contests in his rookie campaign.

The unique combination of his skating, positioning, hockey sense and tenacity are exactly why the Rangers traded up to number 19 with the Capitals to grab him. Had they not, Schneider most likely would be part of the enemy Devils, who are building quite a blue line that should be heard from the rest of the decade.

It would be hard to picture a Rangers blue line without Schneider, who can continue to learn while playing third pair on the right side behind ace Adam Fox and Trouba. In fact, that right trio is among the best in the league. Just wait until Schneider blossoms. He’s not in full bloom yet.

While the Blueshirts will move forward with Schneider taking key shifts behind big minutemen Fox and Trouba, Lundkvist will likely be moved soon. However, Drury will look to recoup a position player who can possibly help the big club.

Why not? It’s not like Lundkvist is suddenly a bust because he didn’t stick in Year One. It was the first season in North America for the former first round pick. It just so happens that there isn’t realistically an opening for him to get the ideal ice time and power play duty needed to produce at the NHL level.

There likely should be some interest around the league. Maybe it just isn’t in the cards for another Lundkvist to have the kind of success in the big city. So be it. We’ll always have the King to talk about and hopefully continue to enjoy watching provided MSG Network can keep him happy. Henrik Lundqvist is already a big hit on the screen. Let’s hope we see more of him.

While Lundkvist appears on the outs with the Rangers, they actually did decide to give a former player another chance. As had also been speculated by Brooks earlier this summer, Jimmy Vesey indeed signed a pro tryout (PTO). He will compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Believe it or not, camp is just around the corner. As hard as it is to believe, October 11th versus the Lightning is only 37 days away. That counts the upcoming Sunday that’s ahead in the Big Apple on Labor Day weekend.

By curiosity, how many baseball fans are ready for hockey? Hint: it could depend on who you root for in NYC. Is it October yet? Let’s leave it at that.

With plenty of tennis being played at the National Tennis Center where Serena Williams played her final match on a stirring Friday night at Ashe Stadium that mirrored a legendary career if you watched until the last point, I’m enjoying the US Open.

Even if there’s no Novak Djokovic to enjoy, which is mind numbing. At least there’s still Rafa Nadal, Danil Medvedev and Nick Kyrgios who are facing off this weekend. Iga Swiatek and American headliners Coco Gauff, Danielle Collins plus Jessica Pegula are among the top players who could win on the women’s side.

If you’re not a fan of tennis, you’re probably pumped for the return of football. There have already been some big college games with Ohio State defeating Notre Dame earlier Saturday night in Buckeye country. If you care, the Jets and Giants start up soon. Already Big Blue resembles a hospital unit. Perhaps they should be sponsored by one.

As for hockey related news, good for J.T. Miller and the Canucks who agreed on a seven-year extension that keeps him in Vancouver through 2030. Eight million AAV is a fair term for a top 10 center coming off a career year. Good luck to the former Ranger for what looks like the remainder of his career. It’s also good for Vancouver fans, who must feel like they can take their team seriously.

I’m still trying to picture the Coyotes playing home games at Arizona State. It’s an arena that seats just over 5,000. Not that that’s much different from what they were drawing at their latest arena. At least they’ll have the real diehards there. It’ll probably feel more like a college atmosphere. College hockey is an interesting watch. Will a marching band also be playing during stoppages?

If we were to rate the top defensemen, start with Cale Makar and go from there. Yes. Adam Fox would make the top five. If you’re a Red Wings fan, I believe in Moritz Seider. He’d be in my list. That’s how much I believe in him.

Ottawa could have company in competing for the playoffs. The Red Wings made some good moves. Of course they did. Steve Yzerman is running it the way he did Tampa.

Will someone sign Tyler Motte already? What about Evan Rodrigues? They both can be valuable late additions for competitors.

Aaron Judge must feel like Mike Trout had felt all these years. Brian Leetch’s remainder of his prime was wasted by awful Rangers teams. Come to think of it, Judge is like Don Mattingly now. Crazy how quickly things change.

See you real soon.

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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