As Expansion Draft Looms, Who Will Rangers Protect?

Thoughts on the Rangers and the Stanley Cup playoffs:

1. We’re now less than a month away from the deadline for teams to submit their protected/unprotected lists for the Vegas Expansion Draft (June 17, 5 p.m.). Vegas will then submit its selections on June 20.

Every team will lose one player — and only one player — to the expansionists. Teams can protect seven eligible forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. Or, eight skaters and one goalie (for teams with a glut at either forward or on defense).

[Rules: 2017 Expansion Draft]

There are still a lot of things that can happen to the Rangers roster prior to the draft, so it’s an inexact science in attempting to draw a plan. For example, teams must protect all of their players with no-trade clauses.

In the Rangers’ case, that means Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Or, they could ask the player(s) to waive their no-trade clause in order to expose them (or trade them).

Also, in a summer that promises to be one of change for Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, other deals could free up spots on the protected list.

But as it stands right now, here’s my protected list, and it’s pretty simple:

Goalie – Lundqvist
Defensemen – Ryan McDonagh, Staal, Girardi
Forwards – Nash, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes

Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey and Brady Skjei are exempt.

So the Rangers, in my scenario, would stand to lose either Jesper Fast, Michael Grabner, Oscar Lindberg or goalie Antti Raanta. They can’t protect all four, and I think all of those four would be attractive to Vegas GM, and former Ranger, George McPhee.

Earlier in the season, we were mostly thinking the Rangers might stand to lose either Nick Holden or Kevin Klein, but their second-half play leaves both of them as longshots to be chosen. The Knights could also sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Brendan Smith, whom the Rangers will attempt to re-sign.

Pending unrestricted free agent Brendan Smith reflects on his stint with the Blueshirts after coming over at the trade deadline and ponders his options heading into the offseason.

For those thinking that the forwards on my list could be exposed in order to make room to protect a Lindberg or a Fast, well, I don’t think it’s good asset management to expose. For example, exposing a Stepan or a Zuccarello means a risk in losing either player for nothing in return when you could bring back value in a trade instead.

For what it’s worth, and it’s worth a lot, Stepan’s no-trade clause reportedly kicks in on July 1.

All in all, the Rangers will lose a player they want to keep.

2. In case you missed it, the Rangers announced some changes to their Hartford (AHL) hierarchy. Chris Drury, Gorton’s assistant GM, will now double as the GM of the Wolf Pack. This leaves the former Hartford GM to remain and focus solely on his role as Gorton’s other assistant with the NHL club.

[Fischler: Rangers Restructuring Underway]

Also, Hartford coach Ken Gernander, after a 10-year run, was let go. Drury will conduct a search for a coaching replacement.

“We want to thank Ken for his service and all of his contributions to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Gorton said in a statement. “We wish him and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”

“I want to thank Ken for his tireless work and dedication to the Wolf Pack and the Rangers organization,” Rangers Senior Vice President and Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld said. “He represented the organization the right way, both on and off the ice. I have had the good fortune working closely with Kenny as a player, assistant coach, and head coach over the last 12 years and wish him all the best going forward.”

3. Whenever I think of Gernander — an honest player who spent most of his career in the minors — I think of the injury he suffered at the hands (or was it the elbow) of Philadelphia’s Trent Klatt in the 1997 Eastern Conference final. It was memorable, to me, because it underscored how much attrition that Rangers team suffered. They were so banged up by the third round that it was actually a huge blow to their chances when Gernander went down.

4. For what it’s worth, for the first time since 2012 when the Blueshirts selected Skjei 28th overall, the Rangers own a first-round pick in the Entry Draft on June 23.

Brady Skjei goes back to the house he lived in during his junior year of college to see what shape its in now.

5. I’m sure it’s not boring to the Ottawa organization and its fans, but I’m sorry, man, the Senators put me to sleep. Yeah, everybody was hollering “what about now!” when the Sens slapped up those four quick goals in Game 3 Wednesday, but those first two games were dreadful.

I can’t believe the Rangers scored so many goals in that series (20 overall, 17 in Games 2-5) and lost. Meanwhile the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, albeit minus their best defenseman, are having all sorts of problems scoring goals (three in three games) against that eyesore of a system.

The Rangers must be kicking themselves watching Ottawa play the decimated Penguins.

6. I don’t think I can recall a playoff season where cross-checking was so popular and so unpenalized.

7. Just about every team now does that thing where, on the power play breakout/entry, they make a long drop pass to a teammate coming up ice with speed. It seems to be very effective, but I’m wondering when some coach is going to figure out a way to time it and pick off that drop pass — it will be a gamble — and get a short-handed breakaway out of it.

8. There’s not a lot funnier than trade proposals and rumors on the internet.

[The Apod – Ep 15: Rangers & Knicks Play-By-Play Announcer Kenny Albert]

9. I have this recurring dream where every time I turn on the TV, I hear Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti.