Is the Kravtsov dilemma a Rangers norm?

The New York Rangers have announced their opening night lineup and the big omission was Vitali Kravtsov. Tuesday, we learned that Kravtsov is refusing to report to Hartford and has been given permission to seek a trade. This isn’t the first time Kravtsov has had a problem playing in Hartford. In 2019 he left the team to go back to Russia where he played in the KHL.  He would return to Hartford later in the year.

If Kravtsov finds a trade he would be the second first round pick from this Rangers rebuild to be traded with the first being Lias Andersson.   You can include Brett Howden who was selected in the first round by Tampa and was dealt to Vegas this summer.   With Libor Hajek barely “making” the team it begs the question what went wrong with the Rangers first wave of prospects. Only Filip Chytil seems to have worked out of the prospects acquired in the beginning of the rebuild.

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June 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Lias Andersson poses for photos after being selected as the number seven overall pick to the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Kravtsov isn’t the only prospect with an attitude issue. It started with Andersson who was taken seventh overall in 2017. He was drafted before “The Letter” but really was one of the first steps in the rebuild. Andersson was traded at last year’s draft for a second round pick which turned out to be Will Cuylle. The Andersson saga was very messy. Before requesting a trade he left the team and went home to Sweden. Andersson while in Sweden gave a very cryptic interview with the Swedish media.

After scoring only three goals in 66 games and rotting in Hartford, Andersson requested a trade.  Andersson through a translator said “There have been many incidents that have disturbed me”. Throw in the DeAngelo disaster and the Rangers only have Will Cuylle to show for trading Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta.

Speaking of Tony DeAngelo, there is another example of a fiasco with a young player. DeAngelo took awhile to get going in New York under Alain Vigneault when he came here as a 21 year old. DeAngelo had one good season and the next season he was gone after getting into it with Alexandar Georgiev

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 08: Libor Hajek #25 of the New York Rangers skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on April 08, 2021 in New York City. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Looking at Libor Hajek next, there are many questions. The main one being did Jeff Gorton overvalue him or did the Rangers underdevelop him The Rangers thought so highly of him its been reported they were forced to throw J.T. Miller into the Ryan McDonagh trade. Hajek looked good in the five games he played during 2018/19 season but a shoulder injury ended his season early.

In 2019-20, he made the team out of camp, but was derailed by a knee injury and when he was healthy he ended up back in Hartford. Then last season Hajek was sharing time with Jack Johnson until Johnson’s season ending injury.

Even Brett Howden was a failure. Along with Hajek, the former first round pick was a key piece of the return the Rangers got for McDonagh. He was someone they had “coveted” for his two-way play and ability to win “important” face-offs.The only difference with Howden was that he got a lot of playing time from David Quinn, more time than many believed he deserved.

I think that David Quinn can be blamed for both Libor Hajek and Lias Andersson development mishaps by burying Andersson on fourth line and in Hartford and then playing Jack Johnson over Hajek in beginning of last season. Quinn did have a history of playing depth veterans over the kids.

Now the hot topic of the day Vitali Kravtsov. Kravtsov was taken ninth overall in 2018, a selection that initially had people saying they should have picked Oliver Wahlstrom. That changed when Wahlstrom struggled his first year in college post draft. Kravtsov has now been with organization for three years and has yet to find a consistent spot on this team.  Last season was first chance he ever had to play in the NHL regular season.

Going into camp Kravtsov, the fans, and the media all believed he would make the team. Even with the injury it was expected he would make the team. I would be annoyed too if I was Kravtsov. We don’t know exactly why he was sent to Hartford but if it was because he got beat out for the spot I find it very hard to believe. One of the reasons I would be annoyed is, what could Dryden Hunt have done in those few practices and games Kravtsov missed this preseason to beat him out.

Kravtsov deserved to be on this seasons roster. Last year Kravtsov looked like he belonged despite only having four points and being a minus six. Dryden Hunt had a good camp and brings physicality, but that’s also why they acquired Reaves, Blais, and Goodrow, for bottom six physicality. What happened to trading Buchnevich to open up more playing time for Lafreniere, Kakko, and Kravtsov?

This situation is completely on the Rangers. It seems that for Kravtsov’s entire Rangers career he has been at odds with management. In all likelihood Kravtsov doesn’t trust Rangers management anymore so even if they told him he’d only be down there for a week he might’ve not believed them. The Rangers don’t have to trade Kravtsov, but if they do end up trading him they will get very little back and they’ll have wasted a talented power forward.