Kravtsov Refuses AHL Transfer. How Does GM Chris Drury Resolve This Situation?

On Tuesday October 12th, a day before the Rangers’ season opener in Washington, youngster Vitali Kravtsov was told that he did not make the opening night roster, and was sent down to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. The 21 year old winger was definitely disheartened by the Rangers’ decision and refused to obey their order, formally granting the Rangers the right to suspend the right-winger. On Sunday October 17th, it was reported that Kravtsov was back in Russia, meaning he would no longer be available, as of right now, if the Rangers were ever in need of another winger.

The Russian born winger spent his youth career playing in the MHL, VHL and KHL. As a young talent, Kravtsov broke out in Russia’s pro league playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the 2017-2018 playoffs. The 18 year old put up an extremely impressive, almost historic, 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 16 games. From that point forward, the young stud had found his way onto the Rangers’ radar. When the 2018 draft came, the Rangers were lucky to have 3 first round picks. With their highest selection, the ninth pick, the Rangers’ choice was made simple: they were going to take Kravtsov. Following the draft, the 18 year old would be sent back to Russia to further develop his game. In 2018-2019, Kravtsov had a good showing in the KHL, a respectable 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) in 50 games. He seemed to be constantly improving until the Rangers called him to AHL, where Kravtsov’s flaws were on full display. The Russian struggled to find his place in the lineup and put up a disappointing 6 goals. After further development in Russia, Kravtsov would bounce back with a successful season in the KHL, leading to him being called up to the Rangers’ squad. He made his debut against Buffalo and, despite only putting up 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 20 games, he looked very solid throughout his short stint. Coming into this season, even though the Rangers hired new management, it was pretty evident that, based on last season’s play, Kravtsov would unquestionably be in the lineup opening night. Head Coach Gerard Gallant and General Manager Chris Drury shocked the world when Kravtsov was not included in the Rangers’ opening night squad.

So, what went wrong? Are the Rangers in the wrong or is Kravtsov? While I don’t think it is fair to put the blame on either side, I’d say the Rangers seem to be more in the wrong here. If this was the first instance of a frustrated prospect, I’d suspect that it could be a personality issue with the prospect. However, this is not the first time the Rangers have skewed a prospect’s development curve. Back in 2017, the Rangers selected Lias Andersson with their 7th overall pick. He was projected to be a 1st line center with a solid two-way game. Andersson gained significant attention heading into his draft year during the World Junior Championship and SHL season. After steadily developing overseas in Sweden and down in Hartford, Andersson made his NHL debut in 2018. Following his first game, Andersson found himself in and out of the lineup and back and forth between Hartford and New York City. This was enough to frustrate the young Swede, and during the 2020 NHL draft, Andersson would be traded for a second-round pick (William Cuylle) to the Los Angeles Kings. Given that is not the Rangers’ first rodeo in a scenario like this, I’d say the Rangers have an issue in European prospect development that needs sorting out. 

Currently, it looks like the only way this situation is resolved is if Kravtsov is moved. There were reports recently that Gallant has requested the Russian return to New York, but his request was to no avail. It seems that the only viable option is a trade. Right now, the Rangers’ asking price is a top 6 forward, which I think is a lot given Kravtsov’s stock right now. I’m guessing that the Rangers will hold a pretty hard bargain on Kravtsov, and won’t let him go for anything less than what they are asking for right now. As much as I would love to see Kravtsov rejoin the Rangers, it just doesn’t seem like a very promising outcome. With the hope of Kravtsov returning rapidly diminishing, Rangers fans should just hope Chris Drury is able to get a pretty good deal done on a trade that is fairly inevitable at this point. 

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