It’s hardly a slam dunk – or empty-net goal – that the NHL will be able to successfully restart its 2019-20 season. That is especially true if players around the league agree with the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin, who on Thursday implored players to not report to training camps on July 10 unless the league and its players' union resolve the issue of the league holding a portion of players’ salaries in escrow.
An extension of the current collective bargaining agreement, which calls for owners and players to split hockey-related revenue 50-50, is among the things the league and union are trying to work out, along with solid health and safety protocols for the 24-team restart.
Assuming players do report for camp, though, and the NHL does restart, what would the Rangers' roster look like when it's time to play games?
The league hasn’t announced how many players will be allowed on teams’ restart rosters, but it’s been widely speculated that teams will be allowed to bring 28 skaters plus goaltenders. The Rangers had 23 players on their roster when the NHL halted play March 12 because of the coronavirus, including three goaltenders – Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin.
Twenty-four teams, 12 each from the Eastern and Western Conferences, will resume play at one of two “hub sites,’’ with the top four teams at each site playing each other in a round robin to determine 1 through 4 seeding. The remaining teams at each site, seeded 5 through 12, will square off in best-of-five play-in series to advance to the 16-team playoffs. The Rangers, seeded 11th in the Eastern Conference, are set to play No. 6 seed Carolina in the play-in round.
It’s a pretty good bet that all 23 players on the roster on March 12 will be among those going to the hub city. But which eight additional players will be going with them?
We know forward Lias Andersson won’t be one. The Rangers confirmed a couple of weeks ago that Andersson, the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, declined a chance to come to camp and will remain in Sweden. His future with the organization is cloudy after he bolted from AHL Hartford in late December to return home.
There are 14 forwards on the current roster, including Chris Kreider -- who was out with a broken foot at the time of the pause but is fully recovered and has been skating in the small group workouts the team has been holding at its Greenburgh training facility -- and Micheal Haley, who had surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle in February.
The roster includes only six defensemen, so the Rangers will need to add two or three call-ups from Hartford, including, certainly, Libor Hajek. Hajek made the Rangers out of training camp and played 27 games before a knee injury sidelined him for more than a month. He played one more game for the Rangers and had five assists and 12 penalty minutes in 28 games before going down to Hartford, where he played 23 games (1-2-3, 14 penalty minutes).
Other candidates to go to the hub city would include 24-year-old, righthanded-shooting Darren Raddysh (6-22-28 and 33 penalty minutes in 62 games); righty Nick Ebert, 26, who had five goals and 11 assists in 46 games for Hartford; lefthander Yegor Rykov (2-9-11 and six penalty minutes in 27 games) or possibly rookie K’Andre Miller, the 2018 first-round pick who signed with the club in March after finishing his second season at the University of Wisconsin.
Among the forwards, Vinni Lettieri, who led Hartford in scoring with 25 goals and 22 assists in 61 games, should get the call. Steven Fogarty, Tim Gettinger and Boo Nieves all spent time with the Rangers and presumably will rate major consideration for a spot. Vitali Kravtsov, the 2018 first-round pick who went back to Russia for a short time after initially failing to make the Rangers out of training camp, might get an invite too, just for good will and to get some experience. He had six goals and nine assists in 39 games for Hartford.
Forwards: Pavel Buchnevich; Filip Chytil; Phillip DiGiuseppe; Jesper Fast; Steven Fogarty; Julien Gauthier; Tim Gettinger; Micheal Haley; Brett Howden; Kaapo Kakko; Vitaly Kravtsov; Chris Kreider; Brendan Lemieux; Greg McKegg; Cristoval Nieves; Artemi Panarin; Ryan Strome; Mika Zibanejad.
Defensemen: Tony DeAngelo; Adam Fox; Libor Hajek; Ryan Lindgren; K'Andre Miller; Darren Raddysh; Yegor Rykov; Brendan Smith; Marc Staal; Jacob Trouba.
Goaltenders: Alexandar Georgiev; Henrik Lundqvist; Igor Shesterkin.