NEW YORK (AP) — The Rangers have avoided arbitration with defenseman Brady Skjei and agreed on a six-year contract.
New York general manager Jeff Gorton announced the deal with the 24-year-old restricted free agent on Saturday, three days before Sjkei’s arbitration hearing was scheduled. Skjei was coming off his entry-level contract.
Skjei is a poster boy for the Rangers’ rebuild as a young, homegrown player counted on to take on an increased role. The 2012 first-round pick has already played 169 NHL games and is going into his third full season.
Playing all 82 games last season, Sjkei averaged a career-high 21 minutes a game and had four goals and 21 assists. He was 10th in Calder Trophy voting for rookie of the year in 2016-17 when he had 39 points.
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Vitali Kravtsov’s development will continue for one more season in Russia after the likelihood arose that a conflict over the final year of his KHL contract would keep the Blueshirts’ 2018 ninth-overall draft selection off the ice for an extended period, The Post has learned.
Sources report that the KHL was prepared to file a grievance if Kravtsov had attempted to buy his way out of this second year of his entry-level deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk. The arbitration hearing process might have taken months, during which time the first-rounder would not have been able to play on either side of the Atlantic. KHL training camps begin in the middle of July. The regular season opens on Sept. 1.
Hence, though Kravtsov and the Rangers were eager for the 18-year-old winger to begin his adaptation to the North American game and lifestyle in Hartford with the AHL Wolf Pack, all parties agreed it would be in everyone’s mutual interest for him to avoid potential litigation and instead play out his obligation. He will be free and clear of his KHL commitment at the end of the season.
Kravtsov, who participated in the Blueshirts’ prospect camp late last month, will thus be unable to join the team for training camp and the Traverse City rookie tournament. He is, however, a prime candidate for a spot on Team Russia’s World Junior roster.
Talks between the Lightning and Senators regarding a potential Erik Karlsson trade have subsided. Indeed, Dallas has re-emerged as the most likely destination for the two-time Norris recipient if Ottawa moves him within the foreseeable future.
The Rangers, though, are maintaining a level of interest in bringing former captain Ryan Callahan back to New York if Tampa Bay feels the need to address looming 2019-20 cap issues. Callahan has two years at $5.8 million per remaining on his deal. General manager Jeff Gorton would presumably be seeking a draft sweetener in conjunction with obtaining Callahan.
No. 24’s recent history of injuries and rehab (including post-playoff right shoulder surgery that will likely sideline him for up to the first month of the season) mitigates against the Lightning being able to securely project Callahan for a 2019 buyout. The CBA prohibits buyouts of injured players.
David Quinn has returned from his sojourn to Sweden, where the head coach met with Henrik Lundqvist. The Blueshirts, who are retaining Lindy Ruff as an assistant, are in the process of finalizing their coaching staff.
Vitali Kravtsov is remaining with Traktor Chelyabinsk for the upcoming season. The news was released on the team’s website and featured a quote (via Google Translate) from the New York Rangers’ 2018 first rounder.
I stay in Russia, I stay in the “Traktor”. This season in the native team will help me grow professionally. In turn, I will try to make for “Traktor” a lot of useful and more please the fans.
The translation is broken, but basically he wants to use this year to develop professionally, be a useful player and one who makes the fans happy. Kravtsov isn’t the only Ranger prospect who will be in the KHL this year, and the franchise could have reinforcements on the way in early 2019.
As Alex points out, the Rangers have three players with KHL deals expiring, and their regular season ends on February 22. This doesn’t include potential Gagarin Cup playoff games, but we don’t even know how the Rangers will be playing at that point of the season.
Overall this move isn’t a total shock, and I would imagine there was a lot of dialogue between Kravtsov and the Rangers. There’s always the chance that Traktor doesn’t make the playoffs and he’s Hartford bound at the beginning of March, but for now we will just have to wait and see.
What are your thoughts on this move? Would you have preferred Kravtsov start the year in Hartford, or are you fine with him remaining in the KHL?
Where did you want Vitali Kravtsov to play this season?
Traktor – KHL
Hartford – AHL
Rangers – NHL
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The next step in negotiations for the Rangers and their large group of restricted free agents took place Thursday, when forwards Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Ryan Spooner, along with defenseman Brady Skjei, filed for salary arbitration before the 5 p.m. deadline.
It’s unlikely any of them will get to an actual arbitration hearing, but if so, a third party will hear the cases from both sides and make a ruling on either one- or two-year deals.
In the past, the Rangers have managed to get a new deal done before reaching the hearing. The most recent time any Blueshirts went through with it were Sean Avery and Nikolay Zherdev in 2007.
All four Rangers who filed are still able to be traded and that is where the most intrigue lies, especially with Hayes. The 26-year-old center could fetch quite a bit in return, and that could save the Rangers from having to give him a long-term deal at market value, around a $6 million annual salary-cap hit. Spooner, the 26-year-old who came to the Rangers in the February deadline deal that sent Rick Nash to Boston, also could draw some outside interest, especially as part of a package deal.
General manager Jeff Gorton is more apt to try to lock up Skjei on a long-term deal. The 24-year-old has shown glimpses of being an elite defenseman, but had a difficult 2017-18 season — as did a lot of players on the Rangers, who declared their decision to rebuild in a letter to the fans on Feb. 8. It also makes sense Gorton would give Vesey a short-term deal to allow the 25-year-old a chance to bounce back after a disappointing second NHL season.
Now that the four have filed, they are considered to be signed players. That only means they can’t receive the rarely used offer sheet from another team, which would put the Rangers in a tough spot, either having to match the offer or get some sort of compensation in return. The most recent time an NHL offer sheet was signed was by Ryan O’Reilly in 2013, and the most recent time an offer wasn’t matched by the original team was Dustin Penner in 2007.
Three Rangers RFA’s with arbitration rights — John Gilmour, Rob O’Gara and Boo Nieves — did not file. They were given qualifying offers, meaning if they turn them down, the Rangers still retain their negotiating rights. The Rangers can also file for arbitration against them by Friday at 5 p.m., although it doesn’t seem advantageous either way.
Prospect camp scrimmages are prospect camp scrimmages, but Rangers free-agent signee Ville Meskanen had an impressive morning, sniping a pair before getting one in the shootout.
The 22-year-old Finn, who recorded 44 points (24-20) in 48 games for Ilves, is a candidate to earn a spot with a Rangers team that seems to be shy of scorers on the wing.
“The way he can spin around in the slot and snipe it, that’s not easy to do,” said Gordie Clark, Rangers director of player personnel. “He’s got a lot of talent. It’s the same thing, with him though. His body has to catch up.”
The Blueshirts, we have learned, did inquire about Adam Fox before the Harvard junior defenseman’s rights went to Carolina from Calgary as part of the Dougie Hamilton-Noah Hanifin swap, but the price was too high.
The Rangers have interest in a reunion with impending free agent Michael Grabner, but won’t get into a bidding war to sign No. 40. General manager Jeff Gorton is an interested third-party to the John Tavares sweeps, with the Blueshirts having ample cap space with which to help Tampa Bay, Toronto and Dallas if one of those clubs is able to convince the captain to depart the Island.
The debate of Vitali versus Ollie could rage across the East River for years to come.
Two high first-round picks, Vitali Kravtsov to the Rangers at No. 9 and Oliver Wahlstrom to the Islanders at No. 11, have already sparked inevitable comparisons after they were taken in last weekend’s draft in Dallas. Wahlstrom was supposed to go in or near the top five, while Kravtsov was expected to go between picks Nos. 10 and 20.
And Wahlstrom has made it clear he took notice of all those teams that passed on him — especially the one from Manhattan.
“I think the New York Rangers made a mistake there,” Wahlstrom said after the team’s first day of prospect development camp on Long Island on Tuesday. “It’s fine. I’m just really happy to be with the Islanders. I just have to stick to my gut and work hard. I’m not focusing on anyone else in the draft other than my team here, my organization here. So I’m very excited.”
Wahlstrom, 18, is from Massachusetts — his mother is from Sweden — and is considered a big-time goal scorer. Playing in the U.S. development program this past season, he had 48 goals and 94 points in 64 games. He has committed to play at Boston College in the fall.
Kravtsov is the 18-year-old Russian winger whom the Rangers had ranked as the second best forward in the whole draft, behind only Andrei Svechnikov, who went No. 2 to the Hurricanes. He has one more year left on his contract in the KHL, where he has excelled playing against older players. This season he tallied the most postseason points (six goals and 11 points in 16 games) in league history for a player under 20 years old.
Vitali KravtsovNHLI via Getty Images
The plan was for Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton to sit down with Kravtsov’s agent at the end of their prospect camp this week in Westchester and discuss the possibility of buying the contract out and getting him to North America this season.
“I can tell you that in our conversations with him and his agent, he does want to be over here sooner than later,” Gorton said Monday. “We’re going to watch him closely this week and see what our options are going to be there. I’m not going to rule anything out right now. He’s a really talented kid, but he’s a kid. So we’ll see where he’s going to be.”
Though Kravtsov didn’t exactly make any proclamation like Wahlstrom, he is not short on confidence, either. When asked if he could end up being like Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov — whom so many have compared him to — Kravtsov went one step further.
“Development can be very rapid,” he said through an interpreter, “and by the end of that process you can be as good, or sometimes better, depending on what you do during that process of development.”
It’s understandable that a teenager who has been fawned over for the past few months comes into his first NHL experience feeling pretty good about himself. If Kravtsov does show well this week and both parties decide he is best suited over here this season, then he would be looking at a Rangers roster designed to give opportunity to young players.
“I will do everything I can to play as soon as I can,” Kravtsov said.
Wahlstrom is in a bit of a different situation, as the Islanders continue to eagerly await the decision of captain John Tavares, who kept hearing pitches from possible free-agent suitors Tuesday in Los Angeles before he can hit the open market Sunday. Tavares’ decision will color how they approach free agency and what the Isles’ roster will look like come training camp.
Either way, Wahlstrom is still likely to go to Boston College and keep developing. So although any rivalry with Kravtsov might not come to fruition for a while, the comparison won’t go away any time soon.
“I look at what you do after the draft,” Wahlstrom said. “That’s the most important thing. I could care less one way or the other where I go in the draft. If it’s first round, second round, third round, it’s all about what you do after, develop yourself and get yourself ready for the NHL.”