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GM Jeff Gorton suggests Rangers are keeping No. 1 draft pick

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere shoots during the team's practice

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere shoots during the team's practice at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Jan. 1. Credit: AP/Ryan Remiorz

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has fielded calls from other teams wanting to know if the Blueshirts would consider trading away the No. 1 pick overall. He doesn’t, however, anticipate making a deal.

"I've taken calls on it,’’ Gorton said Friday on a pre-draft call with reporters. "That's the job. We'll listen to anything. But we're comfortable picking first overall, for the first time in our history, really.

"I'll always take the calls, but I would say our eyes are on taking the pick right now.’’

The NHL draft will be held via teleconference next week, with the first round coming on Tuesday and rounds 2-7 on Wednesday. The Rangers have two picks in the first round – No. 1 and No. 22 – and 10 picks overall. They are expected to select Alexis Lafreniere, a left wing for Rimouski, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the consensus best player available, with the first pick. Gorton, though, would not say if the Rangers definitely will take him.

"Tune in, at 7 o'clock Tuesday and we'll tell you exactly what we're going to do,’’ Gorton said.

On Friday’s call, Gorton and Rangers president John Davidson addressed a number of topics, including following up on the team’s decision to buy out the final year of franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, which it announced Wednesday. Davidson was asked about the organization’s decision to pull the trigger on Lundqvist’s buyout during the NHL’s first buyout window, which opened last Friday and closes next Thursday. There is a second buyout window, for teams who have restricted free agents with arbitration rights. That opens when one of those players goes to arbitration.

"We wanted to do what was right for Henrik,’’ Davidson said. "And yes, there are two buyout periods, but we felt this was the best one… for a number of reasons. One would be for Hank to be able to free up his own mind, and go about his business, and figure out what he wants to do.’’

Lundqvist, 38, is a free agent and could choose to sign with another team to keep his career going and perhaps chase a Stanley Cup ring. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who the Rangers bought out last summer, signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay and was a significant player on the Lightning team that won the 2020 Stanley Cup.

"[Lundqvist], I don't think in his own mind, knows what he's going to do,’’ Davidson said. "The biggest thing that he has in his mind is he doesn't want to have any regrets with whatever his decision is going to be. We have to operate, I guess, businesslike. It just is what it is, a lot of times. There's cap issues, [and] you've got young people coming.’’

Buying out Lundqvist, who was scheduled to count $8.5 million against the $81.5 million salary cap, creates space on the roster for a pair of 24-year-old Russian goalies in Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. It also opens $3 million of salary cap space for 2020-21, as the Rangers will carry $5.5 million of Lundqvist’s salary on the cap now and $1.5 million in 2021-22. The trade last Saturday of veteran defenseman Marc Staal to Detroit freed up another $5.7 million under the cap, which should open enough space to sign all the pending RFAs – Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Strome, Brendan Lemieux, Philippe DiGiuseppe and Georgiev, as well as unrestricted free agent Jesper Fast, whom Gorton indicated the team hopes to bring back next season.

New York Sports