Vitali Kravtsov and the European Assignment Clause option

vitali kravtsov trade
Kravtsov (NYR Twitter)

When Vitali Kravtsov signed his entry level contract earlier this year, he had the intention to fight for a spot in camp and win that fight. A lot of fans were impressed in what was a first glimpse at the brilliance the Russian winger showed. Many agreed he had a successful pre-season and there was talk about him winning a spot in the line-up.

However, when the day came, and the announcement of the team was released, fans realized Kravtsov would be sent to Hartford together with 2017 1st rounder Filip Chytil. This in itself wasn’t cause for concern, but when Kravtsov was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s overtime win over the Islanders affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers, panic ensued online. But what does the future hold for Kravtsov short term? What are his options?

Stay in Hartford for the season

Being scratched in game 2 is hardly the end of the world, but it’s good to at least look at what may happen if this trend continues. The healthy scratch itself, in game 2 of a back-to-back, is not necessarily a bad thing. The schedule in the AHL is brutal with sometimes 3 games in 3 days. Players will sit out games throughout the season due to this and if Kravtsov has the intention of making it the NHL, he’s best off staying in Hartford for now. David Quinn hinted he and Chytil would be the first call-ups in case of injury or trades. The downside of staying in Hartford for too long is financial.

With an entry level contract always being a 2-way deal, the salary drops to 70k a year and for a player who came over from the KHL, that’s a significant pay cut. The exact numbers of what Kravtsov’s salary was in the KHL are unknown, but he was given a new contract 12 months ago by Traktor Chelyabinsk, with a siginificant pay increase. If that puts him close to the average salary in the KHL, the 70k in the AHL is a big step back. Will that impact his decision?

European Assignment Clause

If it does, Kravtsov has the option to trigger the European Assignment Clause that was added to his contract. The clause can be triggered at any time during the season and will result in Kravtsov returning to the KHL to the team that owns his KHL rights, Traktor Chelyabinsk. Side note: This is why Traktor Chelyabinsk did not release Kravtsov once they were eliminated from the KHL play offs. By releasing him, they would have lost his rights.

In the event of the EAC being triggered, Kravtsov will remain with his KHL team until their season is over, after which he would return. The timeline of that return, which could coincide with the NHL trade deadline, makes this scenario appealing for Kravtsov as he would return around the same time the Rangers are expected to trade away Chris Kreider and Vlad Namestnikov.

Earn a call up in the next few weeks

The most recent example to compare Kravtsov’s situation to is that of Kristian Vesalainen last season. The 24th overall pick in 2017 failed to win a spot with the Winnipeg Jets and was assigned to their AHL affliate for 5 games until Vesalainen used his European Assignment Clause to move to Jokerit in the KHL. That happened on November 23rd. If we take that date as a “deadline” it gives the Rangers a little over 6 weeks. As we all know, injuries occur all the time and it’s not unlikely we see one happen which opens the door for Kravtsov to return to New York. But if it doesn’t happen, fans should not be surprised if Kravtsov returns to Russia temporarily.

Mutual agreement to terminate contract

This is a highly unlikely scenario, but I don’t want to leave it out. In rare cases, players and clubs agree to terminate the contract. This happened with Alexei Bereglazov in 2017 for instance. But the Rangers won’t give up on a prospect as valuable as Kravtsov and I don’t see Kravtsov walking away from his dream to play in the NHL. Fans should not have to worry about this last option.

Time will tell, but for Kravtsov, an interesting couple of weeks are ahead.