Rangers News & Rumors: Lemieux, Quinn, Kravtsov & More

The New York Rangers traded Brendan Lemieux over the weekend. Head coach David Quinn was back for Sunday’s matinee against the Washington Capitals. Vitali Kravtsov has cleared all COVID-19 protocols but there’s no word on when he’ll suit up. Adam Fox named the NHL’s First Star and Rangers 2019 draft pick, Hunter Skinner, is signed to an entry-level deal.

Lemieux Dealt to LA

Lemieux, who played parts of three seasons with the Rangers, was traded to the LA Kings for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. He dressed in 109 games for the Blueshirts and recorded 31 points, 209 PIMs (penalty minutes) and was minus-18 before being sent to LA over the weekend. The move was done mostly to create some room up-front with the arrival of Vitali Kravtsov from the KHL, and Brett Howden, who’s thought to be returning to the lineup soon.

Brendan Lemieux New York Rangers
Brendan Lemieux, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Quinn had this to say after news of the move, “It was a logjam obviously, with [Vitali] Kravtsov here and [Brett] Howden getting healthy and some guys doing well in Hartford (of the American Hockey League), it seemed like the right thing to do and it’s going to give [Lemieux] an opportunity to play in a little bit more of a role that he’s looking for. He was a good player for us and we’re going to miss him.” The trade not only made sense to free up space at forward, but Lemieux would have likely been exposed to the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft.

Quinn Back Behind the Bench

After missing six games due to a positive COVID test, Quinn was back behind the Rangers bench for Sunday’s game in D.C. against the Capitals. The Blueshirts lost 5-4 and interim head coach (Hartford Wolf Pack head coach) Kris Knoblauch was 4-2-0 in Quinn’s absence. Quinn was in constant virtual and verbal contact with Knoblauch over the past week and a half. Knoblauch is still behind the Rangers bench as associate head coach since regular associate coach David Oliver is still not cleared to return.

David Quinn Rangers bench
Head Coach David Quinn, New York Rangers, September 27, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Quinn, who has the blood disorder Hemophilia B, was asked how worried he was after testing positive for COVID. “I was told I was going to be OK; it wasn’t going to be anything that was going to create more of an issue for me,’’ he said. “But any time you get COVID, basically the way things have gone, you’re always a little bit worried. But I never really got sick at all and I was very fortunate to have a very mild reaction to it.’’ Quinn finished by saying, “You just can never drop your guard with COVID,’’ he said. “I think our organization’s done a good job, doing everything we can to stay safe and not put people in harm’s way. But . . . you can do everything right and still get it.’’ (from ‘Rangers coach David Quinn feeling good on bench upon return from COVID-19,’ Newsday, 03/28/2021)

Kravtsov Cleared to Play

The Rangers’ highly touted prospect should find himself playing right-wing on one of the top-three lines very soon. Kravtsov was cleared to play last week and has been practicing as part of the taxi-squad. Speculation has been that Quinn wanted to wait until he was able to return back behind the bench and see Kravtsov for himself in practice before penning the 6-foot-3, 189-pound Russian, who was selected ninth overall in 2019, on his lineup sheet. I asked my THW colleague and Rangers contributor Brendan Azoff who he thought Kravtsov might be playing with:

The Rangers depth chart has Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, and Julien Gauthier as the top three right wings. However, it’s probably likely that Gauthier will be dropped down to the fourth line when Kravtsov does make his debut. My other THW colleague, Sean Crimmins, feels the same way as Azoff. We’ll probably know the answer Tuesday morning during or after the pregame skate in preparation for a rematch with the Caps at Madison Square Garden.

What’s More?

Adam Fox was named the NHL First-Star of the Week. It was a week in which Fox had a goal and 10 assists in four games for the Blueshirts, while also being plus-3. Fox is plus-9 with 29 points in 33 games on the season.

The Rangers announced on Monday morning they signed Hunter Skinner to an entry-level contract. Skinner, a 19-year-old Wyandotte, MI native, helped Team USA win gold at the 2021 World Junior Championships. He’s been playing this season with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL and will join the AHL Wolf Pack for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

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