On the Rangers protecting Rooney over Blackwell or Gauthier

Yesterday the Rangers surprised a few of us by protecting Kevin Rooney in the 2021 Expansion Draft. Given the contracts to both Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier, the options were open for the Rangers to protect one of Rooney or Colin Blackwell. The assumption was that the Rangers would protect Blackwell, given his prominent role, good numbers, and great feedback last season. Granted that feedback came from David Quinn, but it might have been backed up by Gerard Gallant at the Worlds this year.

Protecting Rooney makes sense

The Rangers basically made a choice between Howden and Rooney, and chose the latter. With that in mind, the Rangers decided it made sense to lock in their 4C and one of their better penalty killers. Both Blackwell and Gauthier are wingers, where the Rangers have tremendous depth. Losing a winger over losing a center, given where the Rangers are with their current roster construction, is just common sense.

Rooney had a quietly solid year as the 4C. He’s cheap, he’s a known quantity, and he gets the job done. I am looking forward to seeing what he does with a better system, as his numbers and impacts should improve.

There were also rumblings that if left exposed, Rooney was going to be taken by Seattle. So Drury took that option away from Ron Francis. It’s a shrewd move that kept a player in New York that plays in two situations, instead of just one.

Seattle will take Blackwell or Gauthier

Since both Blackwell and Gauthier were exposed, the Rangers are going to lose one of them. Barring a trade, of course. In either scenario, the Rangers are left with some pretty solid fourth line options.

Rooney is a given. Whomever is left from the draft will be one of the wingers. Barclay Goodrow may see time there, or may see time inthe top-nine, depending on how things shake out. Morgan Barron may get time there as well. It gives the Rangers options for a legitimate fourth line that can play two-way hockey and be a threat to put the puck in the net.

The Rangers will lose a solid player, but not someone they can’t replace. The Rangers lost a solid player in Oscar Lindberg to Vegas, and look how that turned out.

Protecting Rooney may not have been the move expected by the Rangers, but it’s one that can be backed by sound logic. There was no galaxy brain here. And quite honestly, if we are discussing protecting Rooney, Blackwell, or Gauthier, then clearly Drury and Jeff Gorton did a great job preparing.