Expansion Plan: Projecting the New York Rangers' protection list for the 2021 expansion draft

The New York Rangers have had a big summer, but how much of their core will they be able to keep together when Seattle takes action in 2021?
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Welcome to the Expansion Plan, our summer series projecting the protected lists for the 30 NHL franchises who will participate in the June 2021 Expansion Draft.

Over the next two seasons, every team – save the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt – will be planning for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd franchise and Seattle GM Ron Francis will begin to consider the options for his inaugural roster. As such, over the course of the next 30 days, we will profile one team, in alphabetical order, and forecast their potential list of protections and exposures, as well as address each team’s expansion strategy, no-brainers, tough decisions and what lessons they learned from the 2017 expansion process.

This exercise requires some important ground rules. The 2021 Expansion Draft will follow the same rules as the 2017 Expansion Draft, but some assumptions are necessary. These are the guidelines followed:

  • No pre-draft trades
  • All no-movement clauses are honored
  • Players who will become restricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 remain with current teams
  • Players who will become unrestricted free agents in 2020 or 2021 either remain with current teams or are left off lists entirely (eg. Nicklas Backstrom protected by the Washington Capitals, Tyson Barrie not protected by Toronto Maple Leafs or any other team.)

• • • 

For most rebuilding organizations, the expansion draft comes at a time where the last thing you want to lose is a key asset. The New York Rangers are in a situation, however, that they can bounce back from a significant loss in 2021 to Seattle thanks to an eventful summer that saw the team land Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko and Artemi Panarin, among others. It's all about the future in New York, who will have tough local competition with the NY Islanders and New Jersey Devils set to ice competitive rosters in 2019-20.

The Rangers lost Oscar Lindberg in 2017 to Vegas, something that won't keep GM Jeff Gorton up at night. The club will almost certainly lose a better player in 2021, whether it be defenseman Libor Hajek or forward Brendan Lemieux. But as shown in Future Watch, finding replacements won't be a challenge for a Rangers team that ended up with the No. 2 pick in June.

PROTECTED (7F, 3D, 1G)
Forwards

  • Artemi Panarin (NMC)
  • Mika Zibanejad (NMC)
  • Brendan Lemieux
  • Pavel Buchnevich
  • Lias Andersson
  • Filip Chytil
  • Brett Howden

Defensemen

  • Jacob Trouba (NMC)
  • Tony DeAngelo
  • Brady Skjei

Goalie

  • Alex Georgiev

NOTABLE EXPOSURES: Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek

STRATEGY: This is a perfect case of a team looking towards the future, with just a handful of veterans leading the way Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are on NMCs and make two of the seven forward decisions easy. Brendan Lemieux is a good depth forward that showed glimpses of two-way ability with the Rangers, but will mainly serve in a depth role. After that, the youth movement is prevalent: Pavel Buchnevich is the only remaining player with two full seasons under his belt, but one that is capable of contributing 40-plus points over the next few seasons. For Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden, the trio are inexperienced but will take up top-six spots before you know it.

In this scenario, Chris Kreider, a UFA next summer, was not protected due to the rumors this summer about the Rangers trying to move his contract. If they do end up signing him, Kreider will be protected, but this is based on the widely reported rumors surrounding his future in New York. In net, Henrik Lundqvist's contract will be up in 2021 and at 39, he might get one more shot as a backup on a championship contender. The Rangers won't be that in 2021-22 and will likely utilize Alex Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin (exempt) as the team's goaltending duo. Could you imagine New York's favorite Swedish son playing elsewhere, though?

THE NO BRAINER: Defensive liabilities have been a consistent concern in the Big Apple over the past few years. So that's why keeping Tony DeAngelo, one of the Rangers' brightest young players after a rocky start to his pro career between Arizona and Tampa Bay's AHL programs, is key. Especially with the influx of young defenders on their way in the next few years, having DeAngelo heading towards his prime will bring stability in the lineup as slower, older defenders filter their way out of the lineup in the next few seasons.

THE TOUGH DECISION: With two NMCs taking up forward spots – thus making it risky to take four forwards and four defensemen while leaving one of Buchnevich, Andersson and Chytil unprotected – the Rangers will be unable to protect a couple of key defenders. Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren had key roles as pro rookies last season in Hartford and will battle for full-time spots on the Rangers well before the 2021 expansion draft. Adam Fox, Joey Keane and Yegor Rykov being exempt could ease the pain, but New York should still look towards swinging a deal with Seattle to make sure the new club won't pick up one of their young blueliners.

LESSON LEARNED: Focus on the future. In 2017, the Rangers could have left Rick Nash and Marc Stall unprotected, among others, and come out fine. With just three veteran forwards saved this time around, New York can focus on the future and potentially move on from an expensive contract. A lot can change in two seasons, but the Rangers are trending in the right direction – so don't mess that up.

Up Next: Ottawa Senators

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(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)

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