The Rangers complied with the 5pm Eastern deadline to finalize their opening night roster, by sending down waiver exempt forwards Vitali Kravtsov and Morgan Barron, along with veteran the recently recalled Greg McKegg. The moves put the Rangers exactly at the league maximum 23, with two goaltenders, eight defensemen and thirteen forwards.
By reassigning Kravtsov and Barron, the Rangers avoided exposing Libor Hajek, Dryden Hunt and Julien Gauthier to waivers and provides the team a little longer to determine what to do, if anything, with the remaining players.
In fact, it would seem Hunt might even play in the opening game, seen practicing today on the fourth line along with Kevin Rooney and Ryan Reaves – who seems a good chance to return from injury in time for the matchup against the Washington Capitals.
While Barron had been an expected reassignment due to the logjam in the bottom six, the move to send Kravtsov down was not necessarily as predictable.
Pencilled in as a possible third line right wing who could play up, Kravtsov was undoubtedly hurt because he missed time due to a leg injury mid-way through the preseason. Whether the demotion will impact Kravtsov’s performances also remains to be seen, two years ago he reacted badly to a similar demotion and ended up returning to Russia and struggling, before regaining his form in the KHL last year, returning to finish out the season with the Rangers.
Although he admitted that his drop in form was wholly on him, it remains to be seen whether he takes it in stride this time round.
For Barron, he will likely see time this year as a call-up should there be injuries to the starting roster. Julien Gauthier will likely start as a healthy scratch and will probably get first chance in the event a line-up change is warranted, but should there be further injuries or players struggling to find form, then Barron looks set to come in as a bottom six replacement or center.
Now the roster is set, the Rangers will look to head to Washington ahead of Wednesday night’s season opener, complete with a significantly more physical side than the one that saw off-season changes remake both the on and off ice organization.