Vitali Kravtsov’s future with the New York Rangers has been in question since he refused to report to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) at the beginning of the season. In November, it was reported that the former first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft was loaned to Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Whether he plays again for the Rangers after the KHL playoffs conclude is in question. He may be traded by team president/general manager (GM) Chris Drury by the deadline or during the 2022 NHL Draft.
The 22-year-old forward has been featured in trade rumors since his refusal to report to the Wolf Pack. Kravtsov is one of the young players who could be involved in a deadline deal in return for a roster player the Rangers might need. There are some rebuilding teams who will have an interest in acquiring him. Here are four trade destinations for Vitaly Kravtsov.
Kraken GM Ron Francis is reportedly taking phone calls from other GMs regarding several of his players. HE is interested in accumulating young talent and draft picks in exchange for players in their prime who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (UFAs) after 2021-22. Kravtsov is one player Francis may ask Drury about if the latter is interesting in making a deal with Seattle.
The Rangers are rumored to be interested in Kraken defenseman Mark Giordano or forward Calle Jarnkrok. Both players will be UFAs at the end of the season, and Francis would like to trade both by the deadline if he does not intend to re-sign them. Kravtsov would be a good acquisition as a young player with the potential who could flourish alongside other prospects in the Kraken organization.
Giordano would be a good option for the Rangers to partner with Braden Schneider on their blue line. The Kraken’s captain has six goals and 17 assists in 52 games this season. Jarnkrok is fourth on the Kraken with 25 points (12 goals and 13 assists) in 46 games. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple argued that the nine-year forward was rumored to be a Rangers trade target in November after Sammy Blais suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against the New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers have options on the Kraken that could help their team during a potential playoff run, while Seattle will attempt to get younger before 2022-23 based on Francis’ agenda at the trading deadline. Giordano or Jarnkrok would improve the Rangers’ depth in preparation for the postseason, and Kravtsov would get a fresh start with the Kraken.
The Montreal Canadiens have had several problems in 2021-22, a year after making the Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens have eight players on injured reserve (IR), nine if you count Shea Weber, who is on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). They have been through a head coaching change, and their starting goalie, Carey Price, has not played this season while he recovers from surgery and spending time in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program for substance abuse.
The team has a 7-3-0 record in their last 10 games and has been playing their best hockey of the season. The Canadiens have several players in the prime of their careers, but new GM Kent Hughes might want to trade his pending UFAs in exchange for young talent. Ben Chiarot has been connected to the Rangers in trade rumors. He is a big, stay-at-home defenseman, which the Rangers could use. A trade involving Kravtsov and the Canadiens’ defenseman could also include each team receiving draft picks or other players.
Kravtsov would be a good fit with other young players on the Canadiens, such as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Chiarot will have interest from playoff-bound teams looking to add depth on their blue line, while Montreal will look to get younger. Trading for the Rangers’ forward would be a start in bringing in more youth to their organization.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Max Domi has been rumored to be traded by the deadline. The forward is in the last year of his contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, worth an average annual value (AAV) of $5.3 million. He would like to remain with the Blue Jackets, but it remains to be seen if management and he can agree on another contract.
Recent trade speculation has the Rangers as a possible suitor for the 27-year-old. However, he may only be viewed as a rental player, given his high AAV, and the Blue Jackets may choose to trade Domi for younger players or draft picks.
Kravtsov is an intriguing option for one of the younger NHL franchises if Drury is interested in adding Domi. The Blue Jackets have other free agents after the season, which may make it difficult for the team and Domi to come to a new contract agreement. Patrik Laine is scheduled to be a restricted free agent (RFA) after the season, in addition to Elvis Merzlikins and Zachary Werenski, who will be up for salary increases in 2022-23.
The Arizona Coyotes, like the Canadiens, are having a difficult season and are also in the mix for the first-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The franchise has some veteran players, such as Phil Kessel, on expiring contracts, which will create interest from other general managers looking to inquire about their availability. The Coyotes have been dealing with rumors regarding Jakob Chychrun.
The “big swing” Elliotte Friedman mentioned on an episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast about Drury’s approach at the upcoming deadline would be a deal for Chychrun. A hypothetical trade would include multiple players and draft picks from both teams. The Rangers would probably be parting with young players in K’Andre Miller, either Nils Lundkvist or Zac Jones, and Kravtsov. The Coyotes would be parting with Chychrun, and a draft pick or another player.
However, I do not see the Rangers acquiring Chychrun by the deadline. Kravtsov could still be of interest to the Coyotes in another deal involving the Rangers receiving a second-round pick in return or Kessel. The veteran forward has a modified no-trade and no-movement clause in his contract, which means he can submit an eight-team trade list to GM Bill Armstrong of franchises he is willing to join. Kessel presumably wants another chance at competing for the Stanley Cup.
The Coyotes are looking for young players to build around their core offensive players in Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. Kravtsov would add youth to a rebuilding franchise. Some of the veteran players who may not return next year besides Kessel include Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Anton Stralman, and Shayne Gostisbehere.
If the Rangers intend to trade Kravtsov by the start of 2022-23, there are teams that will be interested in acquiring him. Whether he and Drury can put their disagreements behind them so he can continue to play for the Rangers is still possible. However, the 22-year-old had a good year for Traktor in the KHL, and other general managers may have taken notice and are willing to give the forward a new beginning.