Nils Lundkvist trade tops New York Rangers storylines as training camp approaches

Labor Day has passed and the anticipation of New York Rangers hockey is starting to build as the rookie camp is just a week away.

That will end with the Rangers rookies take on the Philadelphia Flyers rookies in a back-to-back set on September 16 and 17. Once complete, that will springboard in the big club’s training camp (official dates to be announced).

As we prepare, here are some early top storylines to look for in the upcoming weeks.

New York Rangers storylines: Trading Nils Lundkvist

Coming off the heels of a report in the New York Post stating the Rangers were accelerating efforts to trade defenseman Nils Lundkvist, I reached out to his agent Claude Lemieux.

“We did request a trade when Nils was sent down last year,” Lemieux said in text to Forever Blueshirts. “We hope something can get done in the next few weeks.”

Whether something can be done before the season starts remains to be seen. GM Chris Drury is not in the habit of rushing a trade unless he gets exactly what he wants. That being said, the Rangers don’t have a place for him with Braden Schneider cementing his spot on the the third pair right defense.

Lundkvist, 22, scored 4 points in 25 games with the Rangers last season before being sent down to the Hartford Wolf Pack in January. The former 2018 first-round pick has two-years remaining on his ELC at $925,000.

The Rangers are believed to be asking for a similar ranked prospect, preferably a center. If not, they will gladly use him as a trade chip at the next NHL trade deadline.

Jimmy Vesey on PTO fighting for a job

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Apr 1, 2019; Newark, NJ, USA; New York Rangers left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) skates with the puck during the first period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have brought back a familiar face in Jimmy Vesey. Per CapFriendly, the forward has signed a Professional Tryout (PTO) deal and will be at training camp to fight for a roster spot.

Vesey, 29, recorded 8 goals and 15 points in 68 games for the New Jersey Devils last season.

The gritty forward is coming off a one-year deal with the Devils for $800,000 and if he does win a job in New York it’s expected to be for the league minimum ($750,000). S

At this point, he’s likely to be used as a potential 4th line winger, which poses a big threat to Dryden Hunt’s spot in the lineup as the 13th forward. Both play a similar style with Vesey having a little more experience and scoring ability.

Alexis Lafrenière, Kaapo Kakko, and Vitali Kravtsov

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Nov 8, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) and left wing Artemi Panarin (10) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafrenière is looking for a bigger role this season and top six minutes. With both Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin occupying the top two left wing slots that it won’t be easy so he’s likely moving to play first line right wing.

The 20 year-old first overall pick in the 2020 Draft scored 19 goals and 39 points in 79 games. He’s entering his third season in the league and poised for a breakout.

Kaapo Kakko, the second overall pick in 2019, is expected to play a much bigger role on the second line with both Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano gone via free agency.

Kakko, 21, had a really difficult 2021-22 season thanks to missing 39 games due to three separate injuries. He was only able to post 18 points in the 43 matches he played and is looking to finally show what he can do playing top six minutes.

Vitali Kravtsov has been in New York to get ahead on his training in preparation for camp. After a few tumultuous years, is he ready to make his mark with the Rangers?

The Rangers came to terms with Vitali Kravtsov on a 1-year deal worth $875,000 on June 13. It was important for Kravtsov and his agent to get that one-way agreement to ensure a better chance to play in the NHL. He would need to pass through waivers in order to be sent down next season.

Kravtsov, 22, had a strong campaign in the KHL. In 19 regular season contests, he potted 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points. During the playoffs, he added 7 goals and a total of 10 points in 15 games. He should slot in as third line right wing with Filip Chytil as his center.

Zac Jones big opportunity

Zac Jones
May 1, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) plays the puck against New York Islanders right wing Leo Komarov (47) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jones is currently in New York training with a small group of players in preparation for Rangers training camp in the coming weeks.

“Zac has been thrilled with his first two pro stints with the organization,” his agent Shawn Hunwick told Forever Blueshirts. “Zac is already back in New York preparing for the season with a small group of players.”

Jones, 21, has been patiently biding his time to be a regular for the New York Rangers defense. This is now his best opportunity, and it comes as he enters the final year of his entry-level deal. The Rangers, who will be up against the salary cap, could easily fit his $925,000 salary.

His stiffest competition will come in the form of a Matthew Robertson, who dwarfs not only Jones but others with his 6-4′, 201 lbs frame. Both are natural lefties and have experience of playing with Schneider in the minors.

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