Chris Drury became the president/general manager before the 2021-22 season and impacted the New York Rangers by increasing their physicality with offseason acquisitions Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow, among others. He signed Mika Zibanejad and reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox to multi-year contract extensions. The Blueshirts have returned to playoff contention in his first year as president/general manager, but as with every season, players will not return to the team next year. Let’s look at five Rangers who probably won’t return next season.
The 22-year old is in his fifth season, and his performance continues to be perplexing as he continues to struggle with consistency. Chytil was a healthy scratch by head coach Gerard Gallant during the victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 15. The Rangers coach moved the center to the left wing position for the next game against the Vegas Golden Knights. If he does not begin to produce offensively at the wing, his future with the team is in serious question.
If the Rangers re-sign pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) Ryan Strome, there is a good chance Chytil will be traded in the offseason. His contract expires after 2022-23 as he makes $2.3 million this year and next season, which is not a big cap hit, but he has not improved during his time with the Blueshirts. Unless he makes a significant improvement in his play, expect Drury to trade him this offseason.
The Rangers goaltender has redeemed himself with his play during December after taking over starting goaltending duties when Igor Shesterkin suffered a lower-body injury three weeks ago. Georgiev was one of the most disappointing players at the season’s quarter mark as he did not look confident in net. However, he did his part in the majority of games in which he played this month.
He is in the last year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent (RFA) in the offseason. If Georgiev wants the opportunity to compete to be a starting goaltender or he and the Rangers cannot agree on a new contract, expect Drury to trade him. If he continues to play well for the remainder of the season, expect some teams in need of goaltending to be interested in the soon-to-be 26-year-old netminder.
Drury signed Nemeth last offseason to make the Rangers more of a challenge to play against physically. The defenseman has occupied one of the spots on the third pairing. Still, the Rangers would be better served letting another of their younger prospects at the Hartford Wolfpack of the American Hockey League (AHL) take the 29-year-old’s spot as soon as next year if Gallant intends on playing him the rest of this season. In 30 games for the Blueshirts, Nemeth has two assists and a plus/minus (+/-) of minus-7, the lowest on the team.
His base salary will increase from $1.5 to $2.5 million next season and $3.5 million in 2023-24, the last year of his contract. The Rangers would be better off using Zac Jones or Matthew Robertson in Nemeth’s spot to pair with Nils Lundkvist. The team could also send Lundkvist back down to the Wolf Pack and assign either Braden Schneider or Hunter Skinner to the Rangers. However, if the team wants to move on from Nemeth, the Blueshirts may need to retain a portion of his salary in a trade.
The 28-year-old forward has done well playing on the bottom six since joining the Rangers as a free agent in October 2020. Unless the team can sign the impending UFA to a contract with a low average annual value (AAV), the Blueshirts will likely look elsewhere on the Wolf Pack or another NHL team to replace him, given his age. While he is in his prime, signing Rooney to a multi-year contract may not be worth it if the team can save money given the extensions to some of their players that will begin next season and other players the Rangers intend on re-signing.
The Blueshirts have other players who will be RFA’s after this season, including Kaapo Kakko, who they will re-sign, and Julien Gauthier. Rooney may be one of the odd men out with the other contracts due to the young players who are RFA’s either this offseason or after the 2022-23 year, which includes Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller. He would be worth having back if the team can sign him while keeping in mind the other young players they want to keep on the Rangers.
The 21-year-old refused to report to the Wolf Pack after he was assigned before the start of the season. Kravtsov is currently on loan to the Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he has played in 14 games and has five goals and nine points. While both he and Drury have left the possibility open for a return to the Blueshirts, a trade after the NHL season is more likely to occur.
Jed Ortmeyer, the Rangers director of player development, said about Kravtsov, “I’m pretty excited about him. I think he’s got a lot of talent. We want to see him do well. He’s still one of our guys, and we want to be a resource for him and be there for whatever he needs. We hope he has a great season and what happens after that is obviously above my pay grade” (from ‘Where Rangers’ top prospects stand and how much progress they’re making,’ New York Post, 12/20/21). If Drury and the Rangers prospect can put aside their differences and work out a new contract, the team will have another young player in their organization who could develop into a good player.
The Rangers will have their share of decisions on which players to bring back, trade, and not re-sign. The core players will remain with the franchise for several years, so Drury will need to decide what depth players are worth bringing back. How the remaining four months of the season and potential postseason play out for the Blueshirts will help determine who does and does not remain with the team come opening night in October 2022.