Young New York Rangers forward Vitali Kravtsov remains at home in Russia, having requested a trade from the organization when he failed to crack the NHL roster. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that the team is holding out hope that he may return, but for now Kravstov is unwilling to consider rejoining the club. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman even notes that Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant called Kravtsov himself and asked him to come back, but to no avail. As Staple opines, the team needs to be cautious about potentially losing another top-ten draft pick and talented import after the Lias Andersson fiasco, but may not have another option.
Why the animosity from Kravtsov toward New York? While the official statement has been that the decision was made purely as a result of again not being afforded an NHL opportunity with the Rangers, Staple believes there is more going on behind the scenes. Multiple league sources have stated that the relationship between Kravtsov and GM Chris Drury is strained, to say the least. Dating back to his time as GM of the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack, Drury and Kravtsov have had a number of run-ins and Staple feels that Drury’s promotion signaled to Kravtsov that his time as a Ranger was over.
However, other opinions on the situation do exist. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes that Kravtsov’s malcontent is actually more about opportunity than it is about Drury. Brooks reports that Kravtsov was not just unhappy that he did not make the cut this year, but that he would never get a top-six chance with the Rangers. It is actually a grounded theory, as established stars Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider and recent top picks Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko appear to have a stranglehold on the top-six winger roles in the short- and long-term. (The one top-six roadblock that was moved was Pavel Buchnevich, who also happened to be a friend and mentor to Kravtsov.) It is very conceivable that Kravtsov, whose work ethic and drive have been called into question before, sees these players not as a challenge but as an excuse to ask for a move elsewhere.
Regardless of his reasoning, the fact remains that Kravtsov has requested a trade and it does not seem likely that he will back off of that stance any time soon. Though the Rangers are reportedly asking for a high price for the skilled, but unproved forward, they very well might just have to take the best offer they can get and move on, just as they did with Andersson. A recent report claimed that upwards of 15 teams have inquired about Kravtsov, though Staple qualifies that claim by noting that many teams are merely curious to get the background on the current situation. Brooks echoed that sentiment by adding that interest has been “lukewarm” and there are no hard offers on the table. A trade may not be that far off though, as Friedman hears that those teams who have talked to Kravtsov’s camp have been told that he does want to return to North America and may even be open to an AHL assignment, just not with the Rangers. The Chicago Blackhawks, who hold the other most talked-about trade target early this season, Dylan Strome (brother of Rangers’ Ryan Strome) are considered a suitor which could result in the resolution of two bad situations with one trade. Only time will tell, but if Kravtsov really has no intention of ever returning to New York then a trade should materialize sooner rather than later.