Flames Should Trade for Kravtsov if the Price Is Right

The NHL’s latest trade rumour revolves around disgruntled New York Rangers forward Vitali Kravtsov. This was after he was sent down to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) after New York’s training camp. He won’t report to the minor league team, and has gone back to Chelyabinsk, Russia, where he is currently skating on his own. His agent and Rangers general manager (GM) Chris Drury are now in talks about finding a trade partner.

Now bring in the Calgary Flames, who, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, are one of the teams interested in the 21-year-old Russian. The Flames usually have their name pop up in trade rumours, which makes sense as GM Brad Treliving is known to always be working the phones around the league. The question is, how serious are the Flames on Kravtsov? And being that there are around 15 interested teams, would the Flames be able to make a deal?

Vitali Kravtsov the Player

Kravtsov has had a bit of a roller coaster path in terms of his development since being the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. After a good season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with Traktor Chelyabinsk, he came to North America and played 20 games with the Rangers down the final stretch of the 2020-21 season. In 49 games with Traktor, he scored 16 goals, which ranked fourth-most ever by a 21-year-old in the league.

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In a recent article from Elite Prospects’ Mitch Brown, he had this to say about Kravtsov’s game.

“At this stage, the book on Kravtsov is open and well-read: He’s a tall winger with deft hands and a potent shot. That combination might be overvalued in some circles, but he’s still clearly an NHL player on skill alone.”

“Kravtsov separates himself from most because he has the magic touch. He taps the puck underneath sticks and skates and consistently pops out the other side with it. Often, he beats defenders with the puck glued to his stick, using those mechanics to make defenders commit their way in the wrong direction.

EP Rinkside

One thing that Brown makes clear is that Kravtsov has a ton of skill that can translate to the NHL level, but he just needs to put it all together in order to reach his potential as a hockey player.

“If there’s one positive that came out of Kravtsov’s time in the AHL, it’s that he turned flashes of defensive instincts into consistent impact. He’s much more active in defensive zone coverage, swinging down low to dislodge pucks before sprinting to the point to prevent the shot. He still lacks some puck-battling ability, but it’s not for lack of effort.”

– EP Rinkside

This is an intriguing part of his game that could make him the right type of player to learn under Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. He already has the puck skills that can translate to the NHL, and if he can learn to be responsible in his own end, he could potentially still become an elite player.

Does Kravtsov Fit With the Flames?

This offseason, the Flames decided to load up on defensive ability and veterans with experience. Kravtsov doesn’t fit the theme, but he could be an intriguing option for the team. Calgary doesn’t have a ton of skill outside the top-six, save for Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube. Adding a player like Kravtsov adds more skill to the lineup, and can also help secure the future of the team. If he can live up to the ceiling that scouts gave him in his draft year, with Calgary’s current prospect pipeline, this is a player the Flames should be serious about acquiring. Looking at the current lineup, Kravtsov could start on the second or third-line right wing. 

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The team seems to have two lines figured out through seven games, being the Lindholm and Backlund lines. Dube and Andrew Mangiapane have currently been playing with Brett Ritchie on the right wing, which Mangiapane’s hot start has somewhat masked. The line in 32 minutes of ice-time at five on five has a Corsi for percentage (CF%) of 40 percent and a 31.68 percentage expected goals for percentage (xGF%). In 23 minutes that Mangiapane and Dube have played away from Ritchie, they have a 55.32 CF% and a 67.62 xGF%.

Andrew Mangiapane Calgary Flames
Andrew Mangiapane, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That and the fact the Ritchie has no assists playing alongside one of the NHL’s current leading goal scorers goes to show that the line needs a new right winger. Kravtsov could fit the bill on that line and excel in that role with those players. It would create a solid line for Calgary with more skill and ability, and it also creates an option to swap Dube and Sean Monahan.

Flames Should Pull the Trigger at the Right Price

Kravtsov is now the second Rangers’ first-round pick after Lias Andersson to ask for a trade out of the Big Apple. New York has made a multitude of changes this offseason, both in management and on the roster, and Kravtsov looks to be the next to move.

The Rangers are rumoured to be looking for a one-for-one type of deal. They want a player with the same kind of potential as Kravtsov. Two names that come to mind are Connor Zary and Matthew Coronato in Calgary’s system. But the remaining question is, does management want to part ways with one of their unproven blue-chip prospects for another team’s? One other intriguing detail is that Kravtsov’s agent has stated that he is willing to start in the AHL with another team. This seems as though something is going on between management and player that should have the Flames trying to lower their offer.

New York is in the driver’s seat with the trade, even though Kravtsov’s agent has been allowed to talk with other teams. The Flames have had a good start to the season and may also not feel like they need to add a new player to their NHL roster. But if Kravtsov is willing to play for the Stockton Heat for a certain amount of games to possibly get the call later in the season, then this deal is something the Flames should try to orchestrate at the right price.

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