There’s an old song by The Clash entitled: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Unless you’re of a certain age or heavily into English rock bands of the late-70s, you probably aren’t too familiar with the band’s work. But this song, if you change the title to “Should He Stay or Should He Go?” accurately depicts the situation the NY Rangers currently find themselves in.
You see, by July 17th at 5pm(EST) the Rangers brass must submit their protected list to the league. This is no different from what the franchise went through in 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL. However, the team is in a much different spot now then it was four-years ago.
The Seattle Kraken will announce who they’ve selected, one player from each team — except for the Golden Knights — on July 21st. But the Rangers will likely have a pretty good idea of who they’re losing before then. New Team President/General Manager, Chris Drury is undoubtedly having conversations with his counterparts across the league, including Kraken GM, Ron Francis, so he likely has a better idea than most of us regarding which current Blueshirt is going to be the answer to “Should He Go?”
With that in mind, here’s what we think the Rangers’ protected list will look like under the 7-3-1 (7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie) format.
LOCKS TO BE PROTECTED: Mika Zibanejad; Artemi Panarin; Chris Kreider; Ryan Strome; Pavel Buchnevich.
EXEMPT: Kaapo Kakko; Alexis Lafrenière; Vitali Kravtsov; Morgan Barron; Justin Richards.
MOST LIKELY STAYING: Filip Chytil.
That’s six forwards so far. One spot left and there’s several players who could conceivably be protected.
ONE MUST GO: Kevin Rooney; Colin Blackwell; Julien Gauthier; Phil Di Giuseppe; Brett Howden.
That’s five forwards for only one spot; the other four will be exposed. And just to note, Di Giuseppe is an unrestricted free agent, so that means he’ll be exposed as Seattle won’t want to select a player who’s not under contract, who could then leave via free agency a week later.
Now we’re down to four forwards.
Most feel Howden will be protected while the others are left out in the cold. I’m not so sure, but I can be convinced one way or another. Howden has not developed the way many in New York had hoped and with a new regime in charge, plus a new Head Coach in Gerard Gallant, Howden doesn’t exactly have many allies. Not that he has any enemies either.
With Gallant wanting his team to play a true North-South style of hockey, as well as to be difficult to play against, one would think Rooney could be protected.
After speaking with Doug MacLean, who has been through this before as the Team President/General Manager of the then expansion team Columbus Blue Jackets, he feels Rooney is well thought of around the league, but so too is Howden. He guessed Howden would be protected, so who am I to disagree?
Brett Howden, you are “safe,” for now.
LOCKS TO BE PROTECTED: Jacob Trouba; Ryan Lindgren; Libor Hájek.
EXEMPT: Adam Fox; K’Andre Miller; Zach Jones; Tarmo Reunanen; Nils Lundkvist; Matthew Robertson; Braden Schneider; Yegor Rykov; Hunter Skinner.
As you can see, the Blueshirts have a lot of young defensemen who don’t qualify for the Expansion Draft. So this is a very simple equation for Drury and Co. to figure out.
This leaves Jack Johnson, Brendan Smith, Anthony Bitetto and Tony DeAngelo exposed. (Smith and Johnson are unrestricted free agents).
One can muse over whether or not the Kraken will want to take on the headache that is DeAngelo, but that’s not the purpose of our exercise.
EXEMPT: Igor Shesterkin; Adam Huska.
LOCK TO BE PROTECTED: Alexander Georgiev.
EXPOSED: Keith Kinkaid.
This too is a simple area for the Blueshirts. With Shesterkin not needing to be protected the franchise continues to not have to choose between him and Georgiev. Kinkaid filled in admirably down the stretch as a backup and occasional starter, but he was always on the roster to be the goalie left exposed.
There you have it, a fairly quick look at who the Rangers will protect and expose come July 17th. Of course, this could all change rapidly if Drury makes a big ticket trade (think Jack Eichel) before the Expansion Draft, but there’s no hint of that being the case; at least for the moment.
So, who should stay and who should go? The math and logic say Seattle will choose between Rooney and Kinkaid. It will all come down to who the Kraken take from the other teams and what areas of need the new franchise feels it wants to address. If you’re a betting man, (remember, Vegas is exempt from the Expansion Draft), go with Kinkaid, who will always have value around the league as a reliable backup netminder.