Offseason moves show NY Rangers plan to lose Brett Howden or Libor Hajek in expansion draft

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.

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.

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  • Reunanen gets handed a roster spot if 7 LD ahead of him test positive for the ‘rona at the same time. Then he’s fighting Crawley for 3rd pair.

      • DA loved Staal because he was forced to by Sather… Staal was Sathers adopted son…. but things have changed as JD and JG have removed 90 percent of the old regime’s players..I’m not unhappy at all about the off-season changes….. we tabbed the top player in the draft… and the team will continue to get younger as JD is building a long term foundation so forget about the quickfix…it’s not going to happen as JD continues to preach patience…. though some of us don’t have much patience left!!! lol
        Update: where is my sandpaper grinder???

        • 100% bro- also include Gordie Clark in the mix as well for imploring to draft Andersson when Gorton wanted to take a different course of action. Key point Gorton and the Rangers staff hiring Steve Konowalchuk as a pro scout has assisted in drafting better prospects from the WHL, where Konowalchuk coached for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Keane, Roberston, Schneider, Cuyle, all drafted the past two drafts from the WHL are much better prospects coming from the WHL than the days of Mcllarth and Ryan G.

  • Agree that Gauthier seems to be in favor but I think it is premature to say that Rangers will protect him over Howden. For all his talent (size/speed) he has done little to date. Actually fairly similar to Howden in that regard, but with less of a track record of mediocrity. I would say it is a competition between them this upcoming season to see who is a better bottom six foward and who the Rangers will protect.

    As for Hajek he also has good size/speed/skating also but has barely improved at all in 2 seasons, mostly at Hartford. You would expect improvement and success at Hartford before expecting a prospect to make it in the NHL – Hajek has had little to date.

    • Gauthier hasn’t been given much of a chance to prove his value, Howden has had 2 full years. I’m not judging here.

      • That’s basically what I said – “less of a track record”. However, Gauthier has yet to show much in the NHL in his short stint, just sayin’. He may be another guy that looks the part but never figures it out. FWIW he’s older than Howden. Time will tell.

        • Re: Gauthier, it isn’t just that his stint in the NHL has been shorter, it’s also about his TOI per game and who he has played with (both crappy). For a fair comparison he needs the same quality and quantity as Howden for a fair comparison to be made.

  • Gauthier will get some real time this early season to see what he has. Might be good to put him on the 3rd line as a winger, where he can play with better talent. Howden is what he is, and should be made available in the draft.

    • I know the fan base is mostly down on Howden but I don’t think it is fair to say he is what he is. He is 22 years old, and clearly not a finished product. He was a big scorer in the WHL (in a league with a lot of scoring) and, in retrospect should have been in Hartford the last 2 years developing, and only brought up after success there. He is a almost a victim of his speed/size combo and that his coaches always love him because of his coach-ability and positive unassuming attitude. He certainly can get better, to what extent nobody knows. He’s also a good candidate to be our 4C this season, can’t think of anyone else who is clearly better.

  • I think it’ll come down to one of Lemieux, Howden, Bitetto and Kinkaid. I don’t think they want to lose Hajek even though he’s not solidified himself. Bitetto only needs 19g to qualify which i think he will get even in a shorter year.

    • There’s no way the Rangers are going to protect Kinkaid, unless they trade Georgiev … the same for Bitetto unless they trade one of ADA, Trouba or Lindgren. It’s between Gauthier, Lemieux, Howden and Hajek … although I highly doubt they’ll expose Lemieux.

  • Really hoping Hajek is gone considering we have a lot of defensemen and a lack in centers. To be honest, the Rangers will be the least impacted by this years expansion draft. This is what I think the protection list will be
    Buchnevich (though if he is traded then you can add Howden)
    Lemieux (Dave you wrote an article saying they may expose Lemieux, you are 100% wrong)




  • If Dunn is acquired and ADA is signed. Then Lindgren is a goner. Don’t see Dunn coming here.

    • If the 1st two things happen, then trading Lindgren solves nothing and no rookies play beyond Laffy until the clear overage space.

      Dunn not happening.

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