New York Rangers and Vitali Kravtsov are moving forward but for how long?

vitali kravtsov
Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov and other Rangers prospects practice at the Rangers training facility in Greenburgh Sept. 5, 2019. Credit: © Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News, Rockland/Westchester Journal News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Vitali Kravtsov is ready to make his mark on the NHL and the New York Rangers after a tumultuous few years. The issues between the Rangers first-round pick, 9th overall, in the 2018 NHL Draft are well documented. He’s bolted twice for Russia after failing to make the team out of camp which upset Chris Drury per multiple reports.

The first time Vitali left was in 2019, when he used his European out clause to exit Hartford. Per Arthur Staple of The Athletic, Drury told him that he “quit” on the team. Last year, after failing to make the team out of camp, he did not report to the Wolf Pack and requested a trade.

Kravtsov injured his groin during preseason, and the Rangers were reportedly not happy with his conditioning. That’s why he was assigned to Hartford, but Kravtsov did not agree with their assessment. The Rangers allowed his camp, led by agent Dan Milstein to speak with other teams but no trade ever came to fruition.

Now here we are with both sides playing nice and putting the past behind them.

Vitali Kravtsov and New York Rangers together again

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May 8, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) smiles at teammates after scoring against the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

So why the sudden change of heart?

From a Rangers perspective, salary cap issues have forced them to rely on younger, cheaper talent. Kravtsov signed a one-year extension for $875,000 and will play a prominent role on the team’s third-line with a chance to work his way up.

“I don’t think we’ve ever wavered from our stance of, he’s an all-world talent. He does a lot of things on the ice that a lot of people can’t,” GM Chris Drury said. “Like everyone else, your play dictates where you end up. But we’re certainly glad to have him back in the mix.”

Kravtsov, 22, had a strong 2021-22 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.

Having played 20 games for the Rangers at the tail-end of the 2020-21 season, he scored two goals and added two assists. That experience will be beneficial for both Kravtsov and the Blueshirts as well this year.

This is a big opportunity for Vitali to prove he can play in the NHL. Unlike his prior deal, the Rangers must put him on waivers and risk losing him for nothing if they opt to send him down. That means he’s going to get his ice time and make sure every team in the league knows what he can do.

How long will this last?

Trying to understand how the two sides made peace in order to work together is just one aspect to a very intriguing story.

The real question everyone should be asking is for how long will this relationship last?

The Rangers have a ton of prospects and not all are going to play here. They are overloaded on the wings with Brennan Othmann looking like a future superstar. Will Cuylle also seems ready to play a role in the top nine.

While those two are not likely to make the team out of training camp this season, they almost appear destined to be a lock for the 2023-24 campaign.

If that’s the case, Kappo Kakko or Vitali Kravtsov aren’t both expected to be here when that time comes. That’s why it’s imperative for the Rangers to give them each a long look this season.

There’s no secret that when Patrick Kane or J.T. Miller become available at the next trade deadline, the Rangers will be the running. It’s going to cost them their first-round pick, a prospect, and a player like Kakko or Kravtsov.

For me, I’m thinking the Rangers would rather move the latter and building up his trade value is the only way to do it.

At the end of the day, Kravtsov is back in New York getting ready for a big season, but it could be for just a short time.

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