Looking at the 2021 Expansion Draft – NY Rangers in a good position

As the dust from the 2020 offseason clears, the 2021 picture gets clearer. As the NY Rangers prepare for the upcoming season, the front office is preparing for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Before the pair of two year deals for Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux, signs pointed to one of Brett Howden or Libor Hajek being expansion draft bait. Things have changed slightly.

The Protected List

The protected list so far is relatively easy for the Rangers. They can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. It’s the list you’d expect to see.

The Exempt List

These are the guys who are, for the most part, on their first or second years of their ELCs. There’s some nuance to it, but these kids are not exposed and do not need to be protected.

Just a note – I might be wrong on Rykov and Huska. I think they are exempt.

What’s Left?

The good news is that between the protected list and the exempt list, most of the important guys who are here or the long haul are protected. The Rangers also have two more forward slots open for protection.

This is where the Rangers have a few decisions left to make. As it stands, the Rangers will only be able to protect two of Lemieux, Strome, and Howden, and Julien Gauthier. How that quarter plays this season will have a lasting impact on whether or not the Rangers protect them.

There is always a possibility of a trade to ensure Seattle doesn’t take a specific player. However that scenario only plays out if the Rangers deem three of those guys as worth protecting. That again will be determined almost entirely by how they play this season. Credit needs to go to the front office here. The NY Rangers are in a good spot for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. They won’t be losing a key piece, which is all we can ask for.

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  • Strome will be exposed and taken by Seattle. They get a top 6 C that they can extend or let walk if he doesn’t work on a bad team.

  • The other thing is that Bitetto will have to get 19-20 games in to be eligible for exposure in the expansion draft. Otherwise they would have to trade for Someone or expose ADA.

    • They could also plausibly sign Johnson for another year. A one way contract that can be fully buried would not hurt the Rangers and Johnson might go for it if the Rangers promised to allow him to go to a team that wanted him in the NHL if the Rangers didn’t.

      It is not uncommon to allow veterans stuck in Hartford to seek greener pastures. In fact, I suspect the Graves-Bigras trade was a courtesy to a defenseman the Rangers did not really want. [The dumb part was not trading Graves; it was convincing Graves the Ranger organization was a dead end.]

  • There are many months and many moves that can effect the draft. I know the news regarding the NYR is thin, but you have to expect Gorton has a plan. I suspect this is a make or break year for a few Rangers.

    • The whole point of this season is to have this team ready for take off in 2021-22.

      Have your core in place after expansion and don’t look back.

  • Thinking a bit out of the box, but maybe the Rangers could contact Seattle and trade Strome for something (draft choice) PLUS making Seattle draft a particular player — in other words, we may protect him and expose 2 of Howden, Lemieux and Gauthier. The choice to Seattle is whether they want the better asset (Strome) versus 1 of those 3. It isn’t farfetched since we don’t HAVE to expose Strome.

    • I thought Vegas did extremely well with all those trades they made — and the Rangers did very well not making a trade and losing Lindberg. I really oppose dealing with Seattle as in effect you are bribing them not to do something they might not have done anyway.

      Bottom line – in the expansion draft, you are going to lose something. Accept it and move on. You just make sure you don’t lose a really important player (which for the Rangers means don’t acquire a “must protect” fourth defenseman).

    • That’s possibly the worst possible outcome the Rangers could do beyond giving them Lafreniere so they take Hajek.

      That’s not thinking outside the box, that’s walking into an open manhole.

      • Hardly … and what makes you think they take Hajek? If Lemieux is available, they’ll take him … if Gauthier is available, they might take him over Hajek. I haven’t made a final decision on Gauthier (just haven’t seen enough of him). Howden may also have more cache’ right now than Hajek. I don’t think any of the above mentioned players are a big loss at all, with the possible exception of Lemieux — I would prefer to keep him.

        Strome seems like a goner within a year or so, they may or may not be the case but given his potential future salary (if he plays with Panarin). I’m comfortable exposing him in the draft — but why expose him IF the threat to protect him might produce some “value”. This of course assumes that he isn’t traded before then.

        • I feel certain that if you constructed a full protected list and told Seattle what their options were and asked them who they would pick, they would laugh. They would simply have no idea. Just try to choose between Hajek and Rooney. If Hajek blossoms, you grab Hajek. But if Hajek is a dud, at least Rooney is an NHL hockey player.

          The additional information we get about the value of players like Hajek, Howden, Gauthier is critical to Seattle’s choice. I could imagine them grabbing diGuiseppi in some universe.

          Given a choice between a serviceable player and a dud prospect, they will take the serviceable player.


          Ironically, I hope we do not end up as well-positioned for the draft as we appear to be now. Wouldn’t it be great if Strome, Lemieux, Gauthier, Howden all played so well that we would want to keep all four? And losing Hajek seems unlikely unless he contributes this year, anther good thing.

          • Don’t necessarily agree. They’re drafting 30 players, then there’s Free Agency. They can certainly afford to pick a few “about to become full fledged NHL players” who are 23 and under/

            I never said this would be done, I was suggesting that they might explore the possibility. They’ll want to get off to a fast start. getting a guy like Strome for less than $5M who could probably play as their 2C right off the bat isn’t far fetched.

  • Something to keep in mind, whether or not Strome is the best available doesn’t mean Seattle will take him. There are a lot of variables like players/cap hits available from other teams.

    For example, Strome may be the best player the Rangers make available, but he may not be in the best 8 centers available within the salary cap limitations on other players/trades made.

    Conversely, Seattle may take Strome over Lemieux because there are a dozen better wingers available.

    Or, maybe they take Hajek because he’s got the most upside of the defensemen available and Strome/Lemieux don’t move the needle enough based on the other players available.

    Just want to stir the pot.

    • Looking at some probable lists of who might be available, Lemieux would be pretty attractive …. same for Strome. They are bona fide NHL players, it’s Hajek and Howden (despite the big numbers of games he’s played) where uncertainty still lies — some of it probably dispelled after this season.

  • Who knows, Strome may become the stick that stirs Panarin’s drink and lifts Kakko up as well. We will know this long before we need to decide on the correct protection route to pursue.

    I like where we sit. It’s nice and comfy.

    I feel like we have a little warm blanket covering us from the Kraken’s reach.


  • The Rangers are in good shape. Certainly nothing to lose sleep over.

    And Strome may be appealing to meet the cap floor, as well as for his talent.

  • Looking at the protected list, I doubt Pavel Buchnevich will be on this list. First of all, he’ll be a RFA next off season & looking for a raise from his current $3.25M. Throw in the development of Kakko and Lafreniere and the arrival of Kravtsov. No need to protect Strome as his salary will most likely keep the expansion team from picking him. Lastly; if Howden & Gauthier do well this season, it should make them more valuable to the teams future & worth protecting. So basically; remove Buch from the protective list; which leaves you 3 spots to fill. Howden/Gauthier (if they do well enough) and Lemieux should be protected

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