How To Replace “The Chosen One”?
Who Will We Replace After The Expansion Draft?
So, far the past week or so we’ve waited to see the “Protected” and “Unprotected” players for the New York Rangers. Of the unprotected, there are a few names who stand out the most for Rangers Fans, as well as Rangers brass.
Oscar Lindberg (F)
Jesper Fast (F)
Michael Grabner (F)
If you’re Las Vegas, you are going to give those top four a real strong look. However, if you are the New York Rangers, you have to prepare yourself for the loss of one of these individuals. The Rangers have a few prospects, draft picks, and maybe some free agents in mind to maybe replace “The Chosen One” in the near future.
Who would replace “The Chosen One”?
If, Las Vegas were to select Oscar Lindberg this would leave a big gap for the Rangers at center next season, especially if Derek Stepan were to be moved as well. If I’m the Rangers, I would always look in my current prospect pool, before even thinking about going out to free agency. I would look no further than Marek Hrivik, this is a guy who has paid his dues in the AHL for some time now. Marek is a solid center for the Wolf Pack. He has had back to back 40 point seasons, while that isn’t as impressive as Lindberg’s 58 point season in Hartford. Marek has the ability to play a very solid two-way game. In a season where Hartford did pretty bad, Hrivik was one of two players (Playing more than 10 games) to have a + on the team. If you have watched him play he is a work horse, always finishes checks and never gives up on the play. Even in his brief stint playing for the Rangers, I liked what a saw.
Another option who I think has a higher point production upside, but will need a little more work is Cristoval Nieves. This kid didn’t have the best year in Hartford, but then again no one did. Cristoval brings what the Rangers always need, speed, and there may not be a faster player in our system right now. He is a big kid with a nice shot and quick on his skates, working on his two-way get might get him a shot on the roster.
Next, If Rangers end up losing their PK specialist Jesper Fast, then they will have some issues coming into next season. A player that comes in mind to replace a guy like Jesper, is Nicklas Jensen. Now I know he might not be as good in the PK category, but he is a solid player and he could notch some points as well. He is coming off his best year in the pros with a 55 point season on a team that struggled for most of the year. Now, I know his -27 is very unattractive, but take it with a grain of salt as the whole team was awful. Also, in the last three years, Jensen has went 7 for 9 in shootout attempts, something the Rangers have had a tough go at in recent years.
The third guy who I think has to be on the list for Las Vegas is Michael Grabner. Listen, replacing 27 goals will not be easy, and replacing his speed will be even harder. The Rangers have a lot of talent currently on the team, who will probably step up next year and easily replace those missing 27. With Mika hopefully healthy, Buchnevich coming into his second season, Lindberg looking for his breakout year, and Rick Nash hopefully will put some more biscuits in the basket next season. But, if I had to look in the organization for a player I’d like to replace him, I would really get a good look at Ryan Gropp coming into camp. This kid is a stud in the making. Now I’m not saying he will come on the team and put up 20-30 goals, but this young gun has a knack for finding the back of the net. He sees himself as James Neal-like. Those are big shoes to fill day one, but that’s just the type of player the Rangers need. Gropp has consistently gotten better ever year he has played in the WHL. Over the past three years with the Seattle Thunderbirds, he has posted 30 goal seasons, with 84 points in 66 games this year. You could also argue Adam Tambellini for a spot on this roster as well if we lose Grabs. Again, a lot will play into how Traverse City Tournament and Camp plays out.
Finally, the man who helped keep the Rangers afloat when “The King” struggled early on, Antti Raanta. Now, at this point losing Raanta would be a tough pill to swallow. Personally, I like the guy. This man played on his head this season when the Rangers needed it the most. To lose him would leave a big gap in the backup spot on the big club.
Who will replace him if he goes? While we all would like to see Igor Shestyorkin, it is still to soon to bring him overseas. Also, with Prospect Brandon Halverson having a tough go in the ECHL & AHL, not sure he is the best option. Mackenzie Skapski may look even worse then Halverson over the past few seasons, since his first stint with the Rangers. With the departure of Magnus Hellberg, it really leaves the Rangers with little options but to make a trade with the Golden Knights to stay away from him or look to free agency. Some possible UFA‘s this offseason, Mike Condon or Anders Nlisson.