The Rangers will kick off the 2020 NHL Draft Tuesday when they symbolically step up to the podium, Zoom-style, and officially select Rimouski forward Alexis Lafreniere with the first pick of the draft.
Shortly after that, chaos could ensue.
The Los Angeles Kings possess the second pick in the draft and are expected to select either German center Tim Stutzle or 6-4 Sudbury center Quinton Byfield. Ottawa, which has three picks in the first round — two in the top five — should take whichever player the Kings don’t, and it’s after that when things become unpredictable.
Detroit, which had the worst record in the league, holds the No. 4 pick and could take Saginaw center Cole Perfetti. But who knows? Will Ottawa, at No. 5, make its second pick, or trade it? If the Senators do make the pick, who will it be?
The New Jersey Devils also have three picks in the first round, and the Rangers have two — the second at No. 22 overall, the return for trading defenseman Brady Skjei to Carolina at the deadline in February. Overall, the Rangers have 10 picks in the seven-round draft, which will continue Wednesday with rounds 2 through 7. And in a pre-draft media Zoom call on Friday, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said the Blueshirts won’t necessarily be making all of those picks.
"I think, similar to the past, we'll look to do some things,’’ Gorton said when asked if he might trade some of his picks. "We've had several picks over the last few years, and if we can find a way to help our roster now, and maybe get an NHL player for a pick, or something, we'll look to that. If there are other scenarios where we have to move down in the draft, or move up in the draft, to package picks or get more picks, we'll look at all those scenarios.’’
Gorton referenced last year, when the Rangers traded their second first-round pick, the one they’d acquired from Winnipeg in the Kevin Hayes deal. They sent the pick back to Winnipeg, along with the defenseman Neal Pionk, to get defenseman Jacob Trouba. The year before, in 2018, the Rangers had three first-round picks, and they made a trade with the second of those, moving up four places to draft defenseman K’Andre Miller at No. 22. Gorton said since GMs can’t just wander over to other organizations’ tables on the draft floor to chat this year, trades might not be as easy to make. But he said teams have been talking to each other quite a bit recently.
"It’s been pretty active in the last few weeks,’’ he said. "Teams are very alert.’’
The Rangers, having traded defenseman Marc Staal to Detroit less than two weeks ago, are interested in adding a veteran defenseman to their group that features 22-year-old Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, and could include 22-year-old Libor Hajek and/or the 20-year-old Miller. With teams around the league needing to shed money to comply with the flat salary cap, there could be opportunity for a trade, or perhaps a low-level free-agent signing when the market opens Friday.
The Blueshirts also could use a No. 2 center, especially if they choose to not make a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Ryan Strome, and thus allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. With 10 draft picks and a stockpile of young prospects in the system — and with a healthy amount of cap space after trading Staal and buying out goaltending icon Henrik Lundqvist — Gorton and the Rangers could be very active this week.