Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to yet another “sleep-is-the-enemy” blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com.
To quote Al Pacino from “Godfather Part III” – “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
No joke, I think I wrote something like 15,000 words on the Rangers and the NHL on Monday night, only to find both of those blogs dated by the time I woke up on Tuesday morning. Of course, I’m referring to the most recent episode of “As the World Turns in Rangerstown”, where Vitali Kravtsov is now starring.
Seriously – can this franchise go one week without some sort of crazy drama?
I know I said this on social media on Tuesday afternoon, but I think what’s most disheartening here, if not concerning, is the fact that this story feels like something straight out of last season. I thought we were past all of these never-ending bombshells, only for this Kravtsov story to pop up on Tuesday – one day prior to the start of the Rangers 2021-22 season.
I’ll explain all the particulars about this Kravtsov story in just a moment (for those of you who aren’t aware of what happened already), but I thought all of the Rangers drama had died down, especially after a hectic Monday. I just want to talk about what’s happening on the ice. However, it feels like we can’t get there yet. Thankfully, the Rangers play Wednesday night, where hopefully we won’t have another off-the-ice crazy news story.
While this Kravtsov situation isn’t exactly like the Tony DeAngelo drama from last season, in a way it is, as once again, the Rangers, this time with a new general manager and team president, have devalued an asset.
Say whatever you want about Kravtsov’s attitude (and as you’ll soon see, I agree with all of those takes), but it feels whenever there is some sort of dissension going on, the Rangers, like an elite NASCAR driver, go from zero-to-one hundred miles-per-hour at the drop of a hat.
Before getting into everything regarding this story, where I’ll give you every angle/perspective from it, let me get the PLUGS segment out of the way here first.
I know I always hawk my previous blogs whenever posting a new one, but if you missed last night’s blog (the Gallant one), you should check it out. In that blog, I discussed the Ranger roster cuts from Monday, where Vitali Kravtsov was one of those cuts. In turn, on Tuesday, we found out that Kravtsov won’t report to Hartford and is now seeking a trade. Tonight’s blog will pick up where last night’s blog ended.
Here are my most recent manifestos of Ranger fandom:
Gerard Gallant Pulls a “Harvey Dent” on Team Captaincy Issue; Names Six Alternates Instead, Kravtsov to Hartford; Hajek Remains, Rangers Projected Line-Up for Opening Night, Rod Gilbert Tribute & More
A Complete Preview of the 2021-22 NHL Season: Profiles of all 32 NHL Teams, Division Rankings, Stanley Cup Predictions & More
Rangers Avoid Mid-Season Drama; Lock Down Mika Zibanejad to an Eight-Year Contract Worth $68M, Thoughts on the Deal & More
In another story first broken by Larry Brooks of the New York Post (and later confirmed by everyone else), following the announcement that the Rangers had assigned Vitali Kravtsov to Hartford, it was reported that Kravtsov won’t be accepting that assignment.
Additionally, Kravtsov, through his new agent, has asked for a trade, where the Rangers have given Kravtsov’s agent permission to seek trade offers. Of course, the Rangers would have to approve of any trade that Kravtsov’s agent can come up with. That said, the end of Kravtsov’s time with the Rangers seems to be near.
Before getting into all of this drama, there’s even more drama you should be aware of when talking about Kravtsov.
As mentioned, Kravtsov has a new agent. Previously, well-known super-agent Paul Theofanous was representing Kravtsov. During the off-season, and in fear of a trade (more on that, because this story has many layers, where all of them stink like an onion), Kravtsov fired Theofanous and hired Dan Milstein.
I’m not going to rehash all of Kravtsov’s previous history with the Rangers organization. I’ve done all of that in the past. You can find all of my previous writings on this subject in the archives of this site. Plus, by now, you probably know everything that’s already happened, from Kravtsov leaving the AHL, going back to Russia in the KHL, getting demoted to the VHL and then begging the Rangers to take him back – which the Rangers did. However, don’t expect another mulligan this time.
All I’ll say regarding Kravtsov’s past, is that he has a history of “self-entitlement”. He’s never been content with going through the process like other young hockey players have done, ever since the beginning of the NHL – a beginning which took place over a hundred years ago.
Yes, some draft picks (usually #1 and #2 overall selections) jump right into the league, but that’s a small percentage of players. As a #9 overall selection of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, it’s not like Kravtsov “deserved” or “earned” an automatic spot with the Rangers – no matter what you thought of his recent preseason.
The tag-team at the NY Post, Mollie Walker and Larry Brooks, are reporting that Kravtsov changed his agent because he thought he was going to be traded over the summer. While we don’t know this for a fact, it was rumored that Kravtsov was one of the pieces going the other way, had the Rangers been able to execute a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel. As far as I know, and from what’s out there, Kravtsov’s name was never linked to any other trade rumor.
And before motoring on, it should be mentioned here that neither Kravtsov or his agent have commented on this story. All of this news is coming out of the NY Post (and confirmed from other reputable outlets, including Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet). If you don’t know already, the Rangers have always leaked stories to Larry Brooks, so everything we’re getting right now about this story is from the Rangers end of things. Just something to be aware of when assessing all of this information.
But wait K-Mart shoppers, there’s more!
Not only does Kravtsov have a questionable history, and not only did Kravtsov change agents in fear of being traded, but as Brooks and Walker report, Kravtsov also believes he should be in the Rangers top six of forwards – a belief he expressed to the organization once returning from Russia last season.
Call me a “boomer” or equate me to an old man shaking his fist at the sun from the lawn, but really, this all comes off as very “millennial” to me, where it sounds like Kravtsov believes he’s entitled and should be calling the shots too. And if he isn’t catered to, and as we’ve seen before – he’ll take his ball (or puck) and run home.
Listen, I get how Kravtsov feels at this current moment (and as I’ll soon get into in-depth), but even if he feels screwed over, he has to “man-up” here, and for lack of a better phrase – not be a “bitch” about it.
And to be even more frank with you (and if you’ve been reading this site all preseason), I’ve been advocating and expecting Kravtsov to be on the roster and playing come opening night. I wasn’t happy about the Rangers sending him down to Hartford at all. However, I just thought if he did his time there, as if it were a jail sentence, he’d eventually get sprung and get a chance to prove himself. Heck, he may have even earned an “A” on his sweater too!
Life is all about how you respond to adversity and Kravtsov’s “fight or flight” response, no matter what you think of him as a player, needs a major re-tooling.
As talked about last night, I wasn’t thrilled with the Rangers keeping Libor Hajek and Dryden Hunt over Vitali Kravtsov on the 23-man roster. I understood the decision, but it wasn’t a decision I would’ve made. And as I feel like I have to say all the time whenever talking about roster decisions, I’m not in the room with these guys, nor know what goes on with these players personally over the course of a regular season. The general manager and the head coach do.
We can all cry like Kravtsov about his demotion to Hartford until we are all cried out. However, for Kravtsov to tell the Rangers “nyet” on the assignment – well that’s immature. We all get crappy assignments at our jobs, and we just have to get them over with and move on.
Making matters more interesting, was before the report of Kravtsov’s decision was made public, Gerard Gallant, following the Rangers final practice before the start of the regular season, met with the media. Here’s the press conference:
If you notice, after Gallant was acting jovial, especially when telling the NYR beat reporters that he won’t reveal his starting goaltender ahead of time at any point in the season (Gallant’s rival in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Barry Trotz, now with the Islanders, does the same thing), Gallant quickly tightened up and got serious after being asked about Vitali Kravtsov being sent to Hartford. Gallant’s smile went away real quick.
When the media were interviewing Gallant, they didn’t know about Kravtsov’s decision. However, if you watch the video, and with the benefit of hindsight, you know Gallant sure did. After all, Gallant said the following verbatim:
“Hopefully he goes down to Hartford…”
“Hopefully” would be the key word here.
In addition, Gallant also suggested that the waiver-exemption status of some of his players didn’t effect the decision to send Kravtsov down, especially when Gallant said:
“Oh, there was no reason why. It was about picking our team. We’re trying to win hockey games. We said there was a battle for those spots all training camp long and why? The other guys played well and you know some of the guys that stayed up. Gauthier and Hunt and those guys because they played really well at camp and earned their position.
I think the other guys played well. I thought Kravy, you know he come to camp and he missed some time with the injury there. I liked his last game, he played better in his last game, but again you got to keep doing it day in and day out. I think the other guys really played well, they earned their opportunity.”
Of note, and as covered last blog – on Monday, Gallant told the media he’ll lie whenever he sees fit. I feel like I will be bringing that up a lot during the course of this 2021-22 season.
If we are to believe Gallant, Chris Drury made the final decision on the roster – even if it was Gallant who had to answer the questions about Kravtsov’s demotion. However, as we saw on Tuesday, Gallant backed Drury up (and why wouldn’t he, as Gallant and Drury shouldn’t be butting heads before the team even plays a game), and implied that Dryden, Hajek and Gauthier earned their spots over Kravtsov.
One more time – Gallant said he will lie whenever he wants. I remind you again of this, because while you can make a case for Julien Gauthier (and I have no problem with Gauthier on the roster), there’s just no way in hell you can tell me that Dryden and Hajek had a better camp than Kravtsov. Hell, Hajek barely played during the preseason.
And to go even further, you can’t tell me that Jacob Trouba had a better camp than Kravtsov either, but we know that Gallant and Drury aren’t going to neuter their most offensive fat cat of them all.
If we are to simply judge these players solely on what they did on the ice during the preseason, it’s my opinion, and most likely yours, that Kravtsov deserved a roster spot. Whether the Rangers truly didn’t believe in him, or if the salary cap/waiver-exemption stuff played a factor, we don’t know with a 100% certainty. That said, we do know that Kravtsov played well. In addition, and in what we know with a 100% certainty is this – this whole situation sucks.
Who knows, perhaps if this old regime was still in place, with Jeff Gorton as general manager and David Quinn as the head coach, then maybe Kravtsov’s roster spot would’ve been guaranteed. After all, Gorton drafted Kravtsov and DQ was tasked to groom him. With a new brain-trust running the show, they don’t have any loyalty to Kravtsov. He’s not on their hands. He’s not their perceived mistake. Conversely, neither is Libor Hajek, but the Rangers are protecting him like they are the Secret Service, where it’s likely they are trying to trade him as soon as possible.
As I just did, and like many others are doing, it’s very easy to compare Kravtsov to Hajek (or Hunt), and go on-and-on about how Kravtsov is better. However, I think this all boils down to attitude, where Kravtsov has displayed in the past that he has a poor one – especially when things don’t go his way.
Last night, when talking about Kravtsov’s demotion, I said that the Rangers were playing around with a fragile kid, and a kid who has had mental breakdowns in the past after being demoted. Well the worst-case scenario has played out. The Rangers had to know they were running the risk of this happening, which tells me they just didn’t care. And if they didn’t know this was a possible outcome – then they are just ignorant.
In my opinion, I think the Rangers knew this would happen. Drury isn’t dumb. It also probably explains why Drury shook up his scouting staff during the off-season, especially after the failed Lias Andersson experiment, while knowing something about Kravtsov that we don’t know as well.
From a roster perspective, what also makes the decision to demote Kravtsov even more perplexing is the fact that the Rangers bid adieu to Pavel Buchnevich during the off-season. While I was fine with that trade, I was also under the assumption that Kravtsov would replace Buchnevich at a much cheaper rate. After all, if the Buchnevich trade was solely made due to salary-cap purposes, you at least had Kravtsov at 1/6th the price to fill the void.
In addition, not only did I like what I saw out of Kravtsov in the preseason, I also thought he played well in his limited twenty games from last season, where of the recent first-round pick of Rangers, I thought he looked better than both Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. (I will say, and as talked about during this preseason, Kakko now looks light-years ahead of both Kravtsov and Lafreniere, but yeah – it’s only the preseason.)
This is all just a bad look for both Kravtsov and the Rangers, as once again, the Rangers mismanaged a young prospect. For Kravtsov, who should have some suitors around the league, it makes him look like a coward whenever he doesn’t get what he wants.
As talked about last night, and as was speculated, many fans thought perhaps Kravtsov was only going to be in Hartford for a short time, where many people even thought Kravtsov would return to the line-up for the home-opener. That obviously wasn’t the case, or else Kravtsov would’ve accepted his assignment, knowing that he’d be right back. Like many theories and fan speculation – this Kravtsov paper-transaction idea was just fan-fiction.
For the Rangers, they will most likely trade Kravtsov once they are presented a decent offer. If there’s one thing you don’t want to see, it’s a “DeAngelo 2.0” situation, where this drags out during the entire season. While I’m not a fan of any of this, if the Rangers don’t think Kravtsov is their guy, cut your losses immediately and move on. You just can’t let this be a story all-season.
Perhaps like Lias Andersson, the Rangers can find a diamond-in-the-rough via a trade, even if they just trade Kravtsov for a draft pick. As it stands right now, Will Cuylle, the player selected by the Rangers during the 2020 NHL Entry Draft (after trading Andersson to LA), seems to have a ton of promise. Let’s just hope Cuylle has no qualms about playing at the minor-league level! (And let me be clear – that doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. In fact, far from it.)
While Chris Drury may eventually become the GM on record that ships Kravtsov away, it was Jeff Gorton who drafted Kravtsov, just like Gorton drafted Andersson. In the event Kravtsov is traded, it’s just Drury defining his own era, as he continues to build the team in his own vision.
In addition, while you can never say never; it’s highly unlikely the Rangers and Kravtsov reconcile this time around. As the old saying goes, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” For both Kravtsov and the Rangers, neither party wants to be the fool.
In closing on all of this, it’s just a damn shame this situation played out this way. No Ranger fan wanted to see this.
If you’re trying to do the “blame-game” here, I truly think both parties share the blame. The Rangers forced this situation and perhaps weren’t honest with Kravtsov either. At the same time, Kravtsov can’t throw a hissy-fit anytime something doesn’t go his way.
I can see why both parties would be upset, but I also see why each party did what they did.
In the case of the Rangers, they did what they felt was best for their roster, which let’s not forget – is their right to do so. In the case of Kravtsov, who feels like he was burnt by the Rangers before, he doesn’t want to waste anymore time playing at an inferior level of hockey.
And it should also be mentioned, and as I’ve said numerous times on this site before – the difference between an NHL salary and an AHL salary is huge.
Again, while I don’t agree with how Kravtsov has handled these demotions, he’s left everything he’s ever known to play in America, and he feels he should be paid accordingly. Hootin’ it up in Hartford for pennies on the NHL dollar obviously has him miffed, especially when he can make more money at home, where he’d also be with his friends and family. I can see why he feels pissed off about his sacrifice, but as they say – playing in the NHL is a privilege and not a right.
As far as potential trades, there’s no inkling of what the Rangers would do. In my dream scenario, a scenario that would never happen, the Rangers would unite Kravtsov with Crybaby Andersson in LA, and bring back Brendan Lemieux on his expiring contract. One more time – that won’t happen.
Perhaps even more unlikely (although it would be both ironic and grab a ton of headlines), is Kravtsov, as part of some package, being sent to Buffalo for Jack Eichel. Like the old NY Lotto slogan goes – “hey, you never know!”
Whatever the case, the sooner the Rangers and Kravtsov part ways, the better. What a shame. I didn’t expect to be writing about this today.
A few plugs before closing out.
On Tuesday night, my two favorite Ranger-themed podcasts returned, as both “The Blueshirt Underground Show” and “2 Guys 1 Cup” hit the air-waves, where both shows previewed this upcoming season and covered this Kravtsov nonsense.
To watch the latest episode of BSU, click the play button below:
To listen to 2G1C, click the play button below:
Tis was the night before the opener podcast!
Kravtsov jumping ship, Drury/Gallant putting their stamp on the roster, Mika’s long term contract extension and what it means for the rest of the roster moving forward, the picture heard round twitter and more https://t.co/Rq2wFXz7Q6
— 2 Guys 1 Cup (@2G1CRangers) October 13, 2021
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Finally, the season begins tonight at 7:30PM, with the Rangers in Washington. No one is happier to talk about what’s happening on the ice, rather than talking about all of the off-the-ice drama, than me!
Until next time…
Stay FABULOUS my friends.
As always here, thanks for reading and…
LET’S GO RANGERS!
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