New York Rangers and Vitali Kravtsov trade debacle; what went wrong?

vitali kravtosv
Apr 13, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Nicholas Merkley (39) battles for the puck against New York Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

So far, this has been some week for the New York Rangers. From declining to name a captain after months of buildup, to an opening night clunker against the Capitals, things aren’t going so well.

The biggest issue this week has to be the news that another highly drafted prospect wants out of the organization. Vitali Kravtsov is now an expedited version of Lias Andersson all over again.

Kravtsov, whom the Rangers selected 9th overall in the 2018 Draft wants out so bad that he will report to the AHL, so long as it is for another organization.


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What’s going on between the Rangers and Vitali Kravtsov

The New York Rangers decided that both Dryden Hunt and Julien Gauthier did more to earn a spot than the 21 year-old Kravtsov. Of course, this was not Gallant’s decision alone. President and GM Chris Drury had to be involved in the decision.

“There was no reason why, it was about picking your team that you’re moving forward with, trying to win hockey games,” Gallant explained about Kravtsov’s demotion. “We said there was battles for those spots all training camp long and the other guys played well… [Gauthier and Hunt] earned this position.”

Kravtsov then notified the team he would not report to the Wolf Pack upon hearing the news. The Rangers then granted him and his agent permission to seek a trade.

In the words of Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.”

Forever Blueshirts learned through a source, that Kravtsov feels very strongly that he belongs at the NHL level. He is a very confident hockey player, maybe too confident to accept this demotion. There were also rumblings around the team that they weren’t happy with his conditioning in camp. The lower-body injury he suffered in preseason action may have been a result of that.

Today, Rick Carpiniello confirmed that to be the case in his most recent column in The Athletic. “[Kravtsov] was told, in no uncertain terms, that he needed to go down and work on his conditioning after his lower-body injury during training camp. If he did so, he’d be back up quickly,” he wrote.

Yet instead of going down to the AHL like most expect a good prospect to do, he’s now asking out of the organization. There has to be more going on here.

Rangers doing some damage control

kravtsov trade
Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Red flags started to arise with Kravtsov the first time he was sent to Hartford in 2019. He used his European out clause to return to the KHL, only to have the Rangers work to get him back after he was demoted there.

Last season, due to the pandemic it was worked out he would play the entire KHL season before coming over. But rumors of a trade had already started. Back in November of 2020, Kravtsov was asked about a trade to the Penguins he said, “I can’t say anything about this.”

Now reports are surfacing that he believed he would be dealt this past summer, but that also didn’t happen. Why does he want out so bad?

While he was in the KHL last season, he told Russian reporters that he didn’t see a spot for himself in the Rangers lineup. The trade of Pavel Buchnevich looked like an opportunity to open up a place on the right side, but instead the Rangers moved Chris Kreider over, and Sammy Blais apparently has passed him on the depth chart.

Forever Blueshirts has also learned that Chris Drury was not a fan of his selection in the first place. It really should not be surprising since Drury came in an overhauled the scouting staff, including letting go of Head of European Scouting Nick Bobrov.

It’s likely that Kravtsov and his agent get that sense too and are looking for a fresh start.

At the same time, Kravtsov could have also reported to Hartford and quietly asked for a trade. This is why some feel there’s still a maturation process that needs to occur.

Anyone can see that there’s a level of damage control being done by both parties.

Kravtsov’s value is down

The question now that everyone knows Kravtsov wants out is what’s he worth on the trade market?

Speaking to a team executive, it was made clear to me the likely return will be a second round pick. The most logical would be from teams that currently hold multiple picks in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Those teams are as follows:

  • Ottawa Senators (34, 57)
  • Calgary Flames (41, 49)
  • Detroit Red Wings (47, 63)
  • Arizona Coyotes (55, 58, 59, 62)

The Rangers are actively shopping their extra players like Hajek and Gauthier, which could be packaged with Kravtsov to maybe garner a late first round pick. That would be the optimal scenario. Although yesterday, Darren Dreger stated the Blueshirts are looking for top six talent in return.

I followed up with the same source after Dreger’s report and the notion was considered laughable, especially since the Rangers set a precedent themselves for this situation. This is all eerily similar to Lias Andersson, whom no one would trade for when he asked out. Ultimately, Andersson went to LA for a second round pick which was used to select Will Cuylle.

Here we are again with the Rangers finding themselves in a difficult position with a top draft pick. The difference this time is it is a new regime in charge, save for Chris Drury who has been the constant in both situations.

Going forward, Drury will need to ensure no further risks with first round picks. Both Andersson and Kravtsov were off the board reaches when they were drafted. That’s not the time to get unconventional, and it has burned the Rangers twice in 2017 and now the 2018 Drafts.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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