New York Rangers may need to make a trade or lose Hajek and Gauthier to waiver claims

The New York Rangers opened Training Camp last week, and have played two preseason games. Their record is 1-1, but at this time of the year it isn’t about wins and losses.

Several storylines are starting to emerge but it’s becoming obvious that the 2021-22 roster is almost already set.

New York Rangers have very few open spots

Usually Training Camp is about players competing for several available spots. However, head coach Gerard Gallant, albeit reluctantly, has admitted there really aren’t many openings.

“Every coach and every manager says there are jobs available, there’s always jobs available when people come up and take the jobs, but there’s not a lot,” he said. “We hope that some good young players come up and battle for spots and make the decision real tough but we’re like any team when you get that many guys signed and there’s a salary cap – but you want to see young players pushing for a job. If the opportunity rises (later in the season) who knows when the regular season starts.”

So what spots are really available? If you want my opinion it is the 13th forward and 7th defenseman. Based on the first two preseason games, Gallant has already tipped off his lines and defense.

L1: Kreider – Zibanejad – Lafrenière

L2: Panarin – Strome – Kakko

L3: Goodrow – Chytil – Kravtsov

L4: Blais – Rooney – Reaves

D1: Lindgren – Fox

D2: Miller – Trouba

D3: Nemeth – Lundkvist

Currently, Dryden Hunt seems to have a leg up on the 13th forward. On defense, Jarred Tinordi and Anthony Bitetto are battling it out. For the Rangers, you don’t want prospects sitting in the press box, that’s why despite how well Zac Jones is playing, you send him to Hartford.

There’s been some talk that Kravtsov may not make it, but I just don’t see it. No way are the Rangers going to send him to Hartford. As for Morgan Barron, there’s still a chance for him, but if he isn’t on a regular line, he should play top minutes in the AHL.

The good news is, Barron and Jones are waivers exempt so there’s no concerns with moving them back and forth as needed. So what happens to players that would need to pass through waivers?

Rangers may need to make a trade

libor hajek
May 6, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Libor Hajek (25) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Two youngsters that the Rangers may be forced into trading or risk losing for nothing are defenseman, Libor Hajek and forward, Julien Gauthier. It’s becoming pretty obvious that neither of them are likely to make the roster and both are prime candidates for a waiver pickup.

Hajek, 23, has recorded 10 points in 77 NHL games. The Rangers signed him to a one-year deal worth $874,125. It’s also a two-way contract with a minor’s salary of $70,000, making him a very enticing waiver claim.

Gauthier, 23, has 11 points in 47 career games with the Hurricanes and Rangers. He signed a one-year two-way deal as well this summer. His NHL salary is $775,000 and his minor league deal is for $300,000. I can only imagine Ron Francis, who drafted him in Carolina, licking his chops to pluck him for free off waivers.

Listen, if the Rangers do trade either of these young players it won’t be for much. Basically, if I can see the reality of the situation from my desk, other GM’s already had their names written down at theirs.

The ball is in Chris Drury’s court.

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