In what has been an underwhelming offseason for the NY Rangers, there has been one clear plan. That plan is to prepare for the expansion draft this coming summer. That was abundantly clear after the first day of free agency, when the Rangers signed five UFAs to two-year deals. These players were signed to expose in the expansion draft. But the underlying goal here was to lose one of Brett Howden or Libor Hajek to the expansion draft, and all signs point to this happening.
Early look at #NYR and the 2021 expansion draft:
Their only decision at the moment boils down to exposing 1 of Gauthier/Howden/Lemieux. (If Strome signs for more than 1 yr, would likely mean exposing *2* of those 3)
Blackwell/Rooney/Bitetto are primed to be the req'd exposures. pic.twitter.com/tNLqvqzYzs
— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) October 15, 2020
Forwards To Protect
Based off HSM’s projections, the Rangers are down to really just one choice for expansion. They will need to protect two of Filip Chytil, Julien Gauthier, and Brett Howden. Chytil is a foregone conclusion to be protected. That’s the easy one.
The Rangers would not have traded Joey Keane for Gauthier if they were just planning on exposing him at the expansion draft. Plus it’s unlikely they would have let Jesper Fast walk for so little if they didn’t feel Gauthier could be a viable option in the bottom-six. All signs lead to them protecting Gauthier.
That leaves Howden (and Colin Blackwell/Kevin Rooney).
Defense To Protect
This is the easy one. As it stands today, the Rangers will protect Jacob Trouba, Tony DeAngelo, and Ryan Lindgren. That leaves Hajek as the lone player player, plus Anthony Bitetto, to expose. Defense is easy for the moment.
This Could Change
Jeff Gorton and John Davidson have indicated they will do what they need to improve the roster. Obviously LD is the big hole right now. There is nothing about Lindgren/Jack Johnson/Brendan Smith that shows depth and quality. Even if the Rangers hand a roster spot to one of K’Andre Miller or Tarmo Reunanen, both are rookies who will need time.
There are plenty of options still available that fit the Rangers rebuild model. The big ones are Vince Dunn (STL) and Mackenzie Weegar (FLA). But acquiring one would mean altering their expansion draft plans, at least for the blue line. As of now, though, the plan is to lose one of Brett Howden or Libor Hajek to the expansion draft.