Vitali Kravtsov eliminated from KHL playoffs, will he return to New York Rangers?

Vitali Kravtsov and his team Traktor were eliminated from the KHL’s Gagarin Cup playoffs on Monday by Metallurg in the Eastern Conference Final.

The New York Rangers selected him in the 2018 Draft, 9th overall. Kravtsov’s situation and fallout with the organization is well documented. In October, Kravtsov requested a trade before bolting to Russia. However, he’s been reportedly available even before the demand was made.

Which now raises the question, what’s next between the Rangers and Kravtsov?

Vitali Kravtsov and the New York Rangers

Before we dive into what’s likely to happen next, there’s no issue with Kravtsov coming over from Russia because he has a contract with the Rangers. Despite the NHL severing ties with the league after the invasion of the Ukraine, that deal was already in place.

This season was a good one for Kravtsov in one of Europe’s top leagues. 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.

So will Kravtsov return to North America, where he would undoubtedly be assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack?

There’s no way that Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant can just let him walk on to the big club. Additionally, where would he even play after all the moves at the trade deadline?

Of course, the NHL playoffs are a war of attrition and you will need as many talented bodies at your disposal. However, the only way he gets that call is if he plays for the Pack which is already something he’s been unwilling to do twice.

If previous reporting is any indication, the chances of him coming back to play in the AHL are 50/50 at best.

Kravtsov’s diminishing trade value

vitali kravtosv
Apr 13, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Nicholas Merkley (39) battles for the puck against New York Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kravtsov’s stock has been in a spiraling downfall with the way he left the team on two different occasions.

Remember, he used his European out clause back in 2019 after not making the roster out of camp. That move caused then Wolf Pack GM Chris Drury to call Kravtsov as a quitter only further diminishing his value.

Still, loaning him to his old KHL club was the only move for the Rangers to boost his value.

“After discussions with Vitali and his representation, we decided a loan to Traktor was in the best interests of both him and the organization,” Drury said in a statement. “We think very highly of Vitali and the Rangers development staff will continue to work with him to reach our mutual goal of him some day being a New York Ranger.”

So just what are the Rangers likely to get for Kravtsov, who will be an RFA at the end of the season.

What is a realistic return for Kravtsov

When news broke that Kravtsov requested a trade, I was told by a source that a second round pick would be the most likely return. It was also added to look at teams with multiple second round picks in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Kravtsov was also mentioned as part of a trade package for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun before the deadline. That lends some credence that Kravtsov could still be made part of a larger deal.

However, the Rangers need to be careful taking on any big contracts with their limited cap space. Depending on how things turn out with Ryan Strome’s negotiations, and possibly Andrew Copp’s, I could see Kravtsov as part of a package to replace Strome. Maybe for Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele? We will see.

At the end of the day, a deal at the draft involving Kravtsov for a second round pick is the most likely scenario.

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