Rangers Key Storylines: Strome, Lafrenière, Kravtsov, and Schneider

The New York Rangers have hit a little rut with their first consecutive regulation losses since Mid-December. In years past, this would probably be a bigger concern, but this team continues to show a level of resiliency not seen since Henrik Lundqvist’s heyday in net.

Here’s several key storylines to keep an eye on as we head to the All-Star Break.

Ryan Strome Contract Talks

Ryan Strome is making $4.5M on his current deal and is due a nice pay increase. Artemi Panarin’s favorite center would likely fetch well over $6M if he hits the open market. Of course, a deal of that size will hinder the Rangers cap maneuverability and make them prone to future offer sheets.

One source told me back in December, if the term is right, Strome may accept $5.75M. This is going to be a very interesting negotiation and a discount to stay isn’t out of the question.

The Rangers are cap crunched in 2022-23 and have to plan for Kaapo Kakko’s next deal this summer. They also have to reserve money for Alexis Lafrenière and K’Andre Miller in 2023-24. If Strome is willing to sacrifice money for security, maybe something can be done. He will turn 29 in July so the Rangers must also be careful with the number of years and no-trade protection

Larry Brooks recently noted that preliminary numbers have been exchanged between both parties. However, the key piece of information was that the Blueshirts will not be trading Strome at the deadline if he doesn’t have a deal in place.

A risky move by Chris Drury as he could walk for nothing this summer, but a wise one for any hopes of a long playoff run.

Alexis Lafreniére Trade Talk?

alexis lafreniere
Apr 11, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) awaits a face-off against the New York Islanders during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafreniére’s ice time has been a storyline all season. He’s been bounced from third line left wing, to second line right wing, and now as first line left wing.

Complain all you want about it, but Gerard Gallant and the Rangers are trying to give him an opportunity to run with it.

“I just want him to play a strong game and be stronger on the puck,” Gallant said earlier this season after a benching. “We talked about those turnovers and he was trying to make too many of those cute plays that didn’t work.”

Now, Larry Brooks of the NY Post is speculating on a possible trade of the Rangers first overall pick in 2022.

Lafreniere is going to have to move to the right wing in order to get top six minutes in New York. If there is doubt that he can handle the move, the Rangers are going to have to consider their options. (Even now, with a temporary right-side vacancy on the Zibanejad-Kreider Connection, head coach Gerard Gallant is opting to fill the void with Julien Gauthier rather than No. 13.)

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Just this week, Lafrenière’s agent Émilie Castonguay was selected as the new assistant GM of the Vancouver Canucks. That’s where he began to speculate that she may press hard in a trade to acquire the 20 year-old star-to-be.

Brooks noted that maybe Bo Horvat would be a great return for the youngster and ended by saying he would be surprised if the Canucks didn’t at least ask about Lafrenière’s availability.

Trading Vitali Kravtsov

After 2018 1st round pick (9th overall) Vitali Kravtsov refused assignment to Hartford and exiled himself to the KHL, there’s been very little by way of trade tall.

Yes, the 21 year-old has just 4 points in 20 NHL games with minimal value. At this time, no one appears that interested.

Early reports indicated that Drury wanted another top prospect in return, but no one is willing to do that.

It’s looking more and more like that second round pick I was told about when this all went down is the likely return.

Of course, he could be thrown in as a sweetener in a trade deadline deal. Not something anyone expected after drafting the talented forward.

Braden Schneider

braden schneider
Jan 13, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Braden Schneider (45) reacts after scoring a goal during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone watching the New York Rangers lately will find it hard to imagine Braden Schneider coming out of the lineup.

“A mini-Trouba” as head coach Geard Gallant called him, the 20 year-old has 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 games. He looks real comfortable and mature out there with a poise that many of the kids would envy.

“I’m very happy with how I played. I wanted to show that I can play physical and perform at this level,” Schneider said after his debut. “There’s was time I was loose or hesitant to close gaps on guys but overall I’m happy with the way I adjusted.”

The next question will be, does this make Nils Lundkvist expendable?