New York Rangers’ contract situation going into next expansion draft

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: New York Rangers Right Wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) celebrates after he scores during New York Rangers Prospect Development Camp on June 29, 2018 at the MSG Training Center in New York, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: New York Rangers Right Wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) celebrates after he scores during New York Rangers Prospect Development Camp on June 29, 2018 at the MSG Training Center in New York, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The NHL has done its fair share of expanding since 1967. Since then, the league has gradually jumped from six teams in ‘67 to 31 teams in 2017. With the NHL set to expand once again in 2020, let’s take a look at what that might mean for the New York Rangers.

The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights were an incredible Cinderella story last year. The team overcame all the odds and, incredibly, reached the Stanley Cup Final in its first year of existence.

This was due to a combination of good coaching, as well as some pretty favorable expansion draft rules, plus other general managers deciding to expose some good players (Jonathan Marchessault, anyone?).

The NHL is primed to expand again, with Seattle being the almost definite target. The team’s first year is set to be the 2020-21 season, which would make the expansion draft during the summer of 2020.

Now, what does all this mean for the New York Rangers, you might be asking? Well, when the summer of 2020 hits, as it currently stands, the Rangers will only have six players under contract; Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, and Henrik Lundqvist. Of those six players, two (Lundqvist and Staal) have no-movement clauses in their contracts, meaning they cannot be exposed in the expansion draft.

Plus, some players, like K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, or Vitali Kravtsov, will be in either their first or second year of professional hockey, which means they are also ineligible for expansion.

So, right now, the players that the New York Rangers will have under contract, and who will be eligible for expansion, are Mika Zibanejad, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Of these players, it is highly unlikely that the Rangers will expose Skjei or Zibanejad. Skjei was just signed to a six year extension, so the team clearly views him as part of their long term future.

Zibanejad is a clear number one center, but with the current logjam of centers that the Blueshirts have, he may be gone before his contract is up. That being said, with Zibanejad’s talent level, the team would most assuredly trade him, rather than lose him for nothing.

That leaves Smith and Shattenkirk. Of these two players, Shattenkirk is clearly the more enticing. He is a very talented offensive defenseman and power play quarterback. When it comes down to it, Kevin Shattenkirk is the likely candidate to be picked for expansion, of the six players listed here.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and 2020. The Rangers could go the Michael Grabner route, and sign a player to use as expansion fodder. Whatever the team decides to do, they have a lot of salary cap and roster flexibility over the next few years, which is always good.

Next. What Brady Skjei’s extension means for the future. dark

While Seattle most likely won’t have the same instant success as Vegas, they should still be a decent team, with the same expansion rules that the Golden Knights had. With the roster flexibility that the Rangers have, the player that they lose to Seattle shouldn’t prove too great a lost.