The New York Rangers are going to miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 2004 lockout, and the 2018-19 season has seen the team sell off expiring contracts of fan-favourites Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes as management focuses on a rebuild.
One key part of the rebuild is going to be Russian teenager Vitali Kravtsov, who, according to a report from KHL insider Aivis Kalninš, is expected to sign his entry-level contract with the Rangers in the coming days.
Kravtsov, the ninth-overall pick from the 2018 NHL Draft, and his Traktor Chelyabinsk team were eliminated from the KHL playoffs Monday after being swept by Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. This means Kravtsov would be free to head overseas so long as his KHL club agrees to terminate his current contract, which runs through the end of April.
The 19-year-old winger finished third on his team in scoring with 21 points in 50 games this past season, and accumulated six points in seven games for Russia at the world juniors en route to a bronze medal in January.
Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton told reporters on a conference call one week ago, after the NHL’s trade deadline had passed, that he and his staff “have had a couple conversations internally about what to do with him” once Kravtsov’s KHL season had concluded.
“We’d like to get him over here as soon as we can if everything works out,” Gorton said.
If Kravtsov does sign his entry-level deal and plays in one game, the Rangers will burn the first year of his contract. However, he won’t have to be protected by the team in the 2021 Seattle expansion draft unless he plays more than 10 pro games (NHL and AHL combined), per the CBA.