Selected ninth overall in the 2018 NHL draft, Vitali Kravtsov seemed destined for a bright future with the New York Rangers. Three years later, the 21-year-old right winger and the Blueshirts appear on the verge of parting ways. On Oct. 12, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported his agent received permission to speak with other clubs about a trade.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks indicated Kravtsov refused to report to the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford and could face a suspension. His colleague, Mollie Walker, pointed out the young winger began training camp among their top-nine forwards but was among their last round of cuts prior to their season-opener Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
Tensions had been brewing between Kravtsov and Rangers management for some time. Walker observed he had a contentious exit interview at the end of last season regarding concerns about his offseason training. He also felt he should've been among their top-six last season. On Sunday, she reported Kravtsov had returned home to Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Projected to be a scoring forward, Kravtsov possesses promising offensive skills but had difficulty cracking the lineup. This situation raised concerns among New York hockey pundits like Brooks and The Athletic's Rick Carpiniello over the club's handling of this situation.
Friedman believes there's a market for Kravtsov, claiming there's "definitely interest" in the young winger. TSN's Chris Johnston suggested the Rangers could get a second-round pick, citing the second-rounder (60th overall) in the 2020 Draft they received from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Lias Andersson, another once-promising first-rounder who struggled in New York.
Here's our take on five teams that could be potential destinations for Vitali Kravtsov. You can weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Kravtsov could get plenty of NHL playing time with the Anaheim Ducks. They're amid a roster rebuild and should have room among their top-nine for a winger with offensive potential.
Rickard Rakell, Troy Terry and Jakob Silfverberg are their current top three right wings. Rakell, 28, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He could be on the move by the March 21 trade deadline if still unsigned by then. Jones, 23, has yet to prove himself as a scoring winger. Silfverberg, 31, is signed through 2023-24 but his production slipped last season to a career-low 16 points in 47 games.
The Ducks have their own second-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft to use as trade bait for Kravtsov. If that's not to the Rangers' liking they could offer up a young forward such as Max Jones or Sam Steel. Both are former 2016 first-round picks who've struggled to reach their potential. Like Kravtsov, they could benefit from a change of scenery.
Bill Armstrong wasted little time rebuilding the Arizona Coyotes roster during his first offseason as their general manager. His wheeling-and-dealing over the summer netted his club four extra second-round picks in the 2022 draft. One of those could be used as trade capital to land a young winger with potential such as Kravtsov.
Phil Kessel, Ryan Dzingel and Clayton Keller are the Coyotes' current top three right wingers. Kessel, however, isn't expected to finish the season in Arizona. Recent rumors have the 34-year-old winger seeking a fresh start and a chance to earn a new contract before his current deal expires at the end of this season.
The Coyotes will need a top-six right winger whenever they finally pull the trigger on a Kessel trade. Acquiring Kravtsov would give them a young, affordable potential replacement who could fit into Armstrong's long-term plans.