Projecting who Vegas might select from the Rangers in the expansion draft

jt miller jesper fast nick holden oscar lindberg

The most exciting part of this offseason is clearly the expansion draft. We spent a good amount of space going over the rules of the draft and the shenanigans that will lead up to it, but not much space has been spent really analyzing which players Vegas may select. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of who the Rangers will lose, and all are credible.

Before we can dive into who the Rangers might lose, we first need to figure out who they are going to protect. For the sake of the post, we are going to assume one more RFA forward gets extended so the Rangers meet the exposure requirements. We are also going to assume –again, for the sake of the post– that the Rangers stand pat before the draft. I don’t think they are going to, but it’s too tough to predict any move they make. One last assumption: No UFAs are going to be signed before the draft. That’s a safe assumption.

So let’s review who the Rangers are going to protect:

These are the obvious choices, either by rules (NMCs/exemptions) or common sense. So the players of note who will be exposed:

Now let’s remember that the Rangers will only lose one player to the draft. But that player doesn’t necessarily have to be the best player the Rangers are exposing. It has to be the best player for Vegas. That said, it seems to be down to a choice between Lindberg, Fast, Grabner, Holden, and Raanta. So let’s break this down.

Antti Raanta

Raanta was the popular choice to be picked before the playoffs because of his stellar regular season. And this is certainly a real possibility. However the expansion draft is goalie heavy, and Raanta may not be the best player for Vegas in the future, or even this year. For example, names like Joonas Korpisalo, Malcom Subban, and Matt Murray may be available as the goaltender of the future. For the goalie of now, and to help get Vegas to the cap, Jimmy Howard, Antti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen will likely be available. One of James Reimer or Roberto Luongo will be available as well.

Of the players the Rangers could lose, I put Raanta at the bottom of the list.

Michael Grabner

Grabner is the next guy on the list that folks think will get selected. He’s coming off a great year, putting up 27 goals and presenting a legitimate threat to score on the penalty kill. With just one year and $1.65 million left on his deal, he’s minimal risk as well. He’d be a good body for one year.

But that’s the thing, Grabner will be 30 next year, and all signs point to Vegas looking to load up on futures. There are going to be younger forwards available in the draft that could fill the middle-six role, plus there are always short-term UFAs that could fill the top-six. Grabner is certainly an important Ranger. However he’s likely worth more to them than Vegas. I put him right fourth on the list.

Nick Holden

Holden is an interesting case. He will be 31 years old by the draft, and like Grabner, has just one year remaining on his deal at a reasonable $1.4 million. He too is coming off a career year, putting up 11 goals and 34 points. However he had a rough playoffs, which certainly is fresh on Blueshirt fans’ minds. But again, he, like Grabner, would be a body for a year.

That said, Holden is one of the few defensemen available that has good offensive numbers. Anaheim will certainly issues with potentially exposing Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson. It’s also looking like Marc Methot, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Mark Pysyk, Jonas Brodin, and Jack Johnson will be exposed as well. That’s just through some of the teams I looked at. There are some good names out there, but Holden put up more points than all of them last season. It’s a tough call, and if Vegas views Holden as someone with offensive skill that kids can learn from, they may look at taking him. I put him third on the list.

Oscar Lindberg

Lindberg fits the mold of what Vegas is looking for. He’s a good two-way center who is smart, can play on the penalty kill, and probably fill a 3C role on an expansion team. However he is coming off hip surgery and is not as young as people think, as he will be turning 26 early next season. Despite the short tenure in New York, he’s not that young.

Lindberg’s stock among Ranger fans blew up in the playoffs, as he consistently looked very good. However let’s not let that blind us, as Lindberg is not a top-six center. Even with significant talent lacking in the expansion draft, Lindberg still slots out as a 3C or 4C in Vegas. Is that worth it to them? It could be, since good centers are tough to find. It really depends on how much Vegas weighs his playoff performance versus his two years in New York. Given the surgery and the age, I put him at second on the list.

Jesper Fast

Fast has been an unsung hero in New York. Coach Alain Vigneault has used him in almost every situation imaginable since he came over from Sweden. He’s not going to light the lamp much, averaging 25 points over the past two seasons, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. In the 2015 playoffs, he was on the ice for the Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, and Derek Stepan overtime winners. That’s just impressive.

That’s not by accident. A lot of us get frustrated that AV puts him in the top-six every so often, but that’s a testament to his versatility. He’s the same age as Lindberg, so not entirely young but not really old either. I put him at the top of the list to get taken because he’s a guy that can fill multiple roles for a team that will need jack-of-all-trade players. I put him at the top of the list to get taken, but in reality it’s a 1A/1B situation with Lindberg. It really depends on whether they value the center or the versatile winger.

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  • Expose Hayes, no heart or fire in his game, keep Linberg. Expose Hank Lunquist ( nobody can afford him anyway, and if he has not won a cup by now, odds are he never will as a Ranger. Keep Raata.. Get that Josh Manson kid from Anaheim. Bring back Mcllrath.

    • Bobby

      Expose Hayes, why?????? Agree he is soft, and 90% of the team is as well. He is much more valuable than Stepan, is versatile, can play both center, and wing, and is cost controlled to an extent. Is he soft, sure he is, but that alone isn’t good enough to expose him for. If we are to rid us of Hayes, then trade him, he has value !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bobby I was having a thoroughly miserable morning until I read your post. Bring back McIlrath- you are really too much. Thank you for supplying some humor to this blog; welcome back. It’s raining today and I’m off from work, so I might be back to add my excruciatingly informed and erudite opinions. Especially if I need more comedy.

      Have a wonderful day, everyone; stay dry. Regards- orange

      • Orangemike, I am glad to bring a smile to a fellow bloggers face, much better than bringing one to tears. What is bringing me to tears is the fact that it is Ottawa playing the Penguins in game 7, not the Rangers. Team needs a make over, to easy to play against, the D-corp far too old and polite ( Smith-McD-Skjei are keepers) The soft/old/ fat cat contract players have to go. Good bye Stephan ( how is this guy your # 1 center??, how is he making $6 million per year?) Hayes ( has the guy ever thrown a body check in his entire NHL career?) UNLOAD AT ALL COST, Staal, Girardi, Holden, Nash. Replace them with the likes of Josh Mason, Evander Kane, Max Domi, Matthew Tkachuk, Miles Woods, and I like this Mcllrath kid in the Red Wings organization 🙂 . Heck, see if their are any takers for Hank ( his window has closed , this year should have been his last hooray!!!). I am a long suffering fan who has seen 1 cup in 75 years, and if not for a MIRACLE by the name of Messier it would be 0. TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

        • I hear McDavid might be available if we dangle Hayes as bait.

          Can we get serious here, just because Vegas is in the article title, doesn’t mean we’re going to win the McD-Gomez lottery twice.

        • Bobby B,
          I pick you to be our next GM…….Agree with everything you said but would like to give hayes 1 more year under a messier like coach, he has talent but needs to play with anger, emotion, passion and fire…..
          Also the second to go after stepan must be AV….his coaching cost us one game against montreal and F!@#$%^G two games against ottowa….We should have been sitting home waiting to play the pens , battered and bruised from the capital series and without letang!!!! Instead we get to watch the senators -pens tonight!!!!
          If we lose lindberg or grabner and keep stepan and AV……our window is nailed shut!

    • What ? Expose Hank?? He just won the gold medal for Christ sakes

      • Why am I thinking that you don’t think much of Hank’s gold medal Sieveqvist? He certainly played well over there – maybe something to do with a competent defense, no?

        • They cant expose em … and yes he played great … u always see the negative in my posts

    • You saying, “Get that Josh Manson kid from Anaheim” is like someone from southern California saying, “Get that Brady Skjei kid from New York.”

    • This is tricky enough without considering things that are impossible. Lundqvist has a NMC (like Fleury). The Rangers don’t get a choice which tender to protect.

  • if you had to look who was MIA in the second round against Ottawa let’s look Hayes, Miller, Kreider in spots and Mika I would expose Hayes to go to vegas and let’s get someone good like Manson from Anaheim

    • Amy , you got my vote as the assistant GM to Gorton. Whisper in his ear, Get rid of Hayes, Holden, Girardi, Staal, Nash. Go get Josh Manson and Evander Kane. Fire A/V.

      • Expose hayes? Lolwut? For Evander Kane (when did he start caring about hockey again)?

        I don’t understand why people actually believe crap like this… I’m not a big hayes fan (what you two, & others have said about his compete level is probably true), but, 25 year old centers with size & skill (unless you think ~50 pts is something to scoff at) do not grow on trees….

        “Hey LV, here, take this free 1st rd pick+ of value cuz we don’t like this kid”


        • See the issue with Hayes is multi-facted: He’s very talented, does not possess the biggest heart in the world, and the coach took him from the most offensive zone face-offs last year to a very rate of defensive zone face-offs this year.

          By all accounts, Hayes should be a 60 pt player, easily. He has that level of skills. More than Stepan, that’s for sure, but that does not make him a better NHL player than Stepan.

          For the fact that Hayes does not match expectations then he’s disposable by a good portion of the Ranger fan base, which is ridiculous. Hayes actually makes Stepan the tradeable player for that top D man if the Rangers decide to go that route.

  • We will definitely regret losing Lindberg. He will be an excellent two way center next year given the opportunity wherever he plays. Not a Hayes fan…

  • Those 3 exempt players make life much easier for Gorton and co.

    I see them flipping a forward of significance for a defenseman of significance, then buying out a D man (G or Staal) in order to protect the newly acquired defenseman while also being able to protect one more forward (either Lindberg or Fast). An added benefit here is that when it comes down to it, they can choose which of the two young Swedes to keep in the fold.

    Dave- you’re right that it will come down to one of those two that we lose if nothing is done between now and then. Which is ashame as both of them have been and will continue to be useful pieces for the org.

  • I hope Dave is right and Jesper gets selected by the Golden Knights. Fast gets plenty of playing time but with 22 goals in 3 seasons, he will never be confused with Wayne Gretzky. Further, watching him on the PK is like watching a car crash in slow motion.

    • Fast is an excellent role player for the Rangers, not for an expansion team. If Fast had more offensive skills then I would agree that LV would be much more likely to select him over Lindberg.

      Lindberg will be a top 9 center for them, probably 3rd line, who will take advantage of those matchups.

  • Rangers will do something with Lindberg, like protect him or expose Hayes or move Stepan before the draft. I also see them having Fast opt for surgery in about 14 days which will make him suspect at the draft.

    Not sure of the draft order that Vegas picks in, but do not be surprised if deals are made where Vegas takes a guy like Vatanen and we “take him off their hands” for a pick and another player”.

    Dave – Do you know the order in which Vegas picks?

      • No clue, maybe they do, but if they do, then it behooves them to take a player that another team wants, then move that player to a team that wants that player for another thing of value.

    • They are the only team in the draft, so the order is not relevant. They will draft players in the order they want to. Perhaps position first or from the teams in alphabetic order.

    • They need to select $43.8 million in cap hits during the draft, then hit the cap floor for next season.

      That certainly makes things interesting.

      • I’ve thought this but haven’t commented it. I don’t think LV will be as adverse to “bad” contracts as many suggest just because they have to hit a cap floor. You can’t hit that if you have a team of Grabners and Lindbergs. They aren’t contending in the next few years so a Girardi type player/contract wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

        • If you throw in a couple picks/prospects, they would absolutely listen to taking on a toxic contract. That is absolutely true. It certainly won’t be a free service though.

          • My specific concern with the Rangers is most teams have one or more bad contracts they will be looking to offload…and a lot of them will be players who don’t have NMCs and coming from teams with cupboards not nearly so bare in the prospects/picks categories as the Rangers. I definitely agree that NV will probably be taking on some decent sized contracts and not necessarily for players they ever expect to live up to those contracts…but sadly, I don’t know as that is going to benefit us at all. Fingers crossed Gorton can work some magic when it comes to this, one way or another.

  • I agree with Dave’s analysis. Both Swedes would be the most likely to be playing before crowds of Elvis impersonators next season, though Holden might garner their attention because defenseman are in short supply. Quickie will be missed if he is taken, as will Lindbergh.

    Souring on Hayes and advocating exposing him because he had a poor playoff performance after he had quite a good regular season makes no sense. Centers don’t grow on trees and the young man has talent. I am rather amused how cavalier about, and how little connection the fans at this blog have with, the players on the team at times. I guess I’m sentimental or something, but I like to see young players develop and I give them some slack in anticipation of them becoming better.

    Hayes, Miller, and to a large extent Kreider, only had a few moments during the playoffs where their talent showed. But all three had decent regular seasons. I don’t think it is time to expose any of them to the draft. I might listen to a trade offer if an equally talented young defenseman is dangled, but it would have to be quite a good player.

    • I concur fully. If the team is ready to move on from Hayes (they shouldn’t be, but crazier things have happened), they will have no shortage of interest if they openly put him out on the trading blocks. If that happens, I hope Gorton’s assistant is adept at keeping three or more calls on the lines at once.

      Just because Hayes is not the type of center to throw bombs all over the ice and take a Kesler-type attitude to pestering opposing centers does not make him “soft”. The only thing truly soft about him is his hands, which are incredible for a player of that size. He does not play with an edge, and I’ll give anyone that point…but he’s not some rag doll who gets tossed around, either. He uses his size to shield the puck when he carries it rather than to be physical when he doesn’t have the puck, and apparently he finds it more appropriate to expend his energy on the offensive effort than trying to throw smaller players over the boards all night or try to be some sort of defensive pest that he just isn’t. I see no issue with that.

      It is accurate to say he had a very underwhelming playoffs performance. It is accurate to say he does not play with an edge. But this whole “lazy and soft” narrative just stumps me. 25 year old centers who produced 49 points in the regular season are far from throw-away assets. Not to mention, he did increase his face-off % to a respectable-if-not-all-world 51.8% this year, as a side note.

      47 centers in the league had more points than Hayes. Among those who played the same or more amount of games than Hayes, 32 produced more points per game. Those aren’t elite numbers nor am I claiming so…however, that’s second line production on a league-wide scale. There are a slew of teams who would have Kevin Hayes as their 2C in a heartbeat. To expose him in the expansion draft would be absolute lunacy.

      • Man, it feels good to read a well put together, cogent argument.

        I don’t think we’re anywhere close to giving up on Hayes. But if the team wants to move on, he’s still very much of a first rounder compensation guy.

      • The one thing you left out is the reversal of the trend from leading in offensive zone face-offs to defensive zone face-offs that accounts for the dip in pts as well.

        Using Hayes in mostly defensive situations is, well, you know…

          • Depends on what you mean by that. The year before he was 150th in the league in pts per 60 minutes played, and that was after a disastrous 2nd half of the year.

            A lot of Ranger fans are enamored by our forward group, but I like to judge during the playoffs, not during a meaningless 82 regular season games (other than to make the playoffs) and I wasn’t impressed by what I saw. Too many free loaders.

            Which is why Hayes needs to be put into offensive situations. He needs to put up points.

          • My first reaction is to disagree with your premise, but I am curious if anyone has ever studied this issue. Here you have a large data set of regular season performance and a small data set of playoff performance. So, if you want to predict next year’s playoff performance, what is a better predictor, this year’s season stats or this year’s playoff stats?

            We certainly remember the guys who seem to step up in the playoffs year after year and those that are duds year after year, but I am sure we tend to ignore those guys who step up one year and not the next.

          • Different game Ray, regular season vs. playoffs. And different competition as well.

            How many stiff teams are there in the regular season to pad stats? You have the better teams in the playoffs playing a more tight and defensive game that makes it harder to score goals.

            The regular season is much more wide open, which is why I really didn’t get too excited when the Rangers were scoring 5 goals per game in Oct/Nov. I want to see it in Apr, May, and Jun.

            It’s not a coincidence that the Ranger top 6 did not score a lot of goals in the playoffs, with low 2nd chance shots.

            I wanted Justin Williams when he was a FA because he’s the prototype for a good playoff performer. Something the Rangers need badly up front.

          • I understand your argument. I won’t even say you are wrong. I am inclined to disagree however and it would be nice if someone actually had done a study.

            40-50 games is really not enough of a sample size to really tell us how good a player is and that is a better sample than we have for most players. OTOH, as you point out, it is a different world.

            Incidentally, this is the same argument as Corsi vs. +/-. Is it better to have a more argument measurement of the wrong thing than a sloppy measurement of the right thing?

            Personally, I believe that the performances of Justin Williams and Game 7 Lundqvist are mind tricks. It is absolutely critical for forwards to believe that they can score in order for them to attack the goalie with confidence – which results in goals. So goals breed more goals and saves lead to more saves. I am inclined to believe that the difference between Williams and Rick Nash began as pure luck, then became internalized.

            The big difference IMO between the Rangers and Penguins is that the Pens have Crosby and Malkin to do the scoring. They don’t need anyone else and therefore no one else ever gets snakebit and frustrated. Slumping players rebound. OTOH, every slumping Ranger is front page news – a disastrous situation.

          • Interesting discussion Ray. I can’t disagree with you either.

            The one team I point to that kind of supports my argument are the Caps. Regular season darlings and playoff failures. They appear to have the pieces to win it but yet they cannot get to the ECF.

  • I think there is one more possibility that merits consideration. Las Vegas is going to choose some players that they have no intention of keeping – players that they acquire for the sole reason of dealing them to other clubs to get draft picks, etc.

    In that light, it may be that a player like Grabner or Holden might be more attractive than they would be if LV were simply keeping them.

    Of course, we don’t know how interested they are in the future and how interested in putting out a respectable team. They might go for guys with a lot of high end potential (best here are Pirri and Clendening, I think).

  • Hayes has more value in a trade. Enough said. AV likes and trusts Fast much more than Lindberg. I think Gorton gets convinced from AV to somehow keep Fast thus exposing Lindberg.

    • I dont think it works that way. Both Lindberg AND Fast will be exposed and unless Gorton can persuade McPhee to do steer clear of one or both through a trade, it will be up to Vegas to determine what they want. Once the list is submitted, AV will have very little to say about who gets claimed or not claimed.

  • Dave:

    You analysis did not address whether Las Vegas will draft a player for the purpose of trading him for additional assets. While Las Vegas will have to draft 30 players its roster will be 23 meaning that it would have to send 7 players through waivers to get to the minors. It seems more likely that Las Vegas will draft several players for other teams and then move those players for more draft picks or other prospects. If I believe I am a team that is close to the cup and I wanted a strong, cheap back up goalie or a fast, cheap forward, I might be interested in having Las Vegas draft one of those players for me. Las Vegas would have to weigh whether the team is more interested in the potential assets it could get from picking Raanta or Grabner or selecting Fast or Lindberg, two nice but bottom line players. I think you have underestimated the likelihood that Las Vegas picks Raanta or Grabner for the purpose of moving them to another team.

      • Those are not shenanigans. If Minnesota says to Las Vegas that they want them to draft Grabner and will give LV three draft picks for him, that is a shenanigan. However, if LV drafts Grabner because they ANTICIPATE that some contender will want him and pay a tidy sum, that is not a shenanigan.

        Las Vegas will be trying to draft the most valuable set of thirty players that they can under the rules. And value is determined by short term value to them, long term value to them, and trade value.

        It should be noted that Raanta is an unlikely choice under this scenario. Goalies have relatively little trade value and so LV will likely draft exactly three.

  • Dave-

    Given that there are many variables to consider, as well as “shaningans” that were just mentioned that we can’t really predict or account for, I think your analysis is spot on.

    If I’m Gorton and I was able to influence what Vegas will do, I would steer them towards Holden, Raanta or Grabner.

    Holden is a mixed bag and we will likely be doing a major overhaul on defense anyway. I have no problem moving on from him.

    Raanta, as good as was, is a back-up goaltender. Benny is the goalie whisperer and I am starting to believe he could make me into a serviceable backup. He is easily replaceable IMO. (Of course, Raanta could possibly fetch a nice return in a trade too, so there’s that).

    Grabner is a tough one. You can make the case he was the team’s MVP this past season. He so overachieved expectations that you wonder if the Rangers would have been closer to the borderline playoff team they were supposed to be if not for his excepptional season. But it’s easy to envision a major regression for Grabner next year. I won’t be sad if he his drafted by Vegas.

    I think losing Fast or Lindberg would be the biggest hits to the team. I have no idea why so many are so down on Fast. He is a solid, under the radar player that seems to contribute in some way virtually every game. I think he is one of those guys who will be missed when he’s gone. Lindberg is the perfect 3C/4C player that a team lacking a true 1C really needs to compete. He would be tough to replace IMO.

    The idea of exposing Hayes, or Stepan, or any of the others some of us (me included) have soured on is ludicrous. I’m no fan of Hayes, and would have no issue dealing him. But to let him go for nothing would be a total waste of a valuable asset. Same for Stepan. Want to trade him? No problem. Expose him? Unless it was part of some bigger picture strategy, no way.

    • When I see “suggestions” like exposing either Hayes or Stepan in the expansion draft to lose them for nothing, I really wonder what the “thought process” is (similar to the “it’s all Hank’s fault” narrative).

      Cap savings? Dislike for the player?

      The fact of the matter is that teams would line up to trade for either one. What the trade return would be can be debated, but teams would line up for either one in a heartbeat.

    • 3E,
      Letting Grabner and his 27 EVEN STRENGTH GOALS leave is almost as crazy as letting Anton Strallman walk away! At 1.5 million!!!!!!
      And we still havent replaced him! Cant make the same mistake again, sign him for next 3 years and dont look back. Cant imagine he would rather play in LV rather than here.
      Must find a way to keep lindberg and start removing dead wood/salary – stepan/girardi/stall….and dont let Sather anywhere near the negotiating table anymore and forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Since teams do not have to publicly announce their protected list, what about trades with LV so that they don’t select a player? If say the Rangers trade a 3rd round pick to LV so that they don’t select Lindberg, will all of that information be avalaible to us? Or are we just going to see “3rd round pick sent from Rangers to LV”?

    Personally I I think everything should be out on the table for all to see.

    • Would love that, but this is a league where a guy could very obviously break his leg in the middle of the game and the team would still call him day-to-day and only refer to it as a “lower body injury” for as long as they could before having to say something official, or until it leaked otherwise. Transparency to the fans is not an aspect that ownership and league brass seem very interested in.

    • Both Fast and Lindberg are RFAs. Correct me, but isn’t the draft rules state that every team has to expose at least 2 forwards that are either signed for at least the next year, or an RFA that has a contract offer extended. If that is the case, Rangers can choose between the two who gets the offer, and thus gets exposed in addition to Grabner. Or even use Pirri or Puemple

      • LV can choose any one of Grabner, Fast, Lindberg, Pirri, Pumpel. The Rangers have no choice in the matter. Yes, they must sign one of them, BUT LV doesn’t have to take one of those signed.

    • Protected lists will be made available to the public. They did a 180 on the original decision which was a nice surprise.

  • Well reasoned, Dave


    I expect Nash to SJ for 2017 1st, ELC exempt Julius Bergman
    Stepan somewhere for futures

    that’s 2
    Less a given, esp before exp drt
    McD + Zuc reduced + picks
    Sam Reinhart elc + EKane, 5.25 expiring who may also be flipped

    If JG did this my way
    we could recover Fast, Lindy + Grabner (if he is not dealt)

    Hellberg is gone, but thankfully we can extend Skapski
    so we can deal Raanta

    no need to do LV any favors without reciprocating backscratch
    we only have to have Pump + Pirri at min to expose

    and not sure if Klein only or 2Ds
    either way, it is way to go…

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