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Rangers GM Jeff Gorton: Namestnikov trade creates opportunities

Vladislav Namestnikov sets before a face-off at Madison

Vladislav Namestnikov sets before a face-off at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The day after he traded forward Vladislav Namestnikov to the Ottawa Senators, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said he was “sad to see Vlad go,’’ but the move was one the Rangers “felt we had to make.’’

Namestnikov, 26, was traded Monday night to the rebuilding Senators in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2021 draft, plus defenseman Nick Ebert, 25, who was assigned to the Rangers’ Hartford Wolf Pack farm team.

Gorton said the trade was made both to clear some space under the salary cap, as well as to create opportunity for some of the Rangers’ younger players who are pressing to get into the lineup.

“We feel like we're deep enough, moving forward, that we could replace Vlad and give some other people some opportunities,'' he said. "And at the same time, the cap always factors into what we're doing.’’

Gorton acknowledged the Rangers did retain a small portion of Namestnikov’s $4 million salary (reportedly the Rangers are keeping $750,000 on their books). But even with that, the trade clears $3.25 million in cap space, leaving the Rangers with an estimated $4.435 million available under the cap, according to CapFriendly. That kind of space creates flexibility that would potentially allow the Rangers to add some salary at the trade deadline, if they were in a battle to make the playoffs next February. Gorton didn’t want to talk about that, though.

“We’re going to play Game 3 (Saturday, vs. Edmonton), so we’re worried about that,’’ Gorton said. “We’ll see what happens.’’

Gorton said the Rangers will not make a move to call up someone from Hartford immediately to fill Namestnikov’s roster spot. The trade leaves the Rangers with 21 players, two less than the maximum allowed. But since they don’t play until Saturday, and then don’t play again until Thursday of next week, Gorton said the Rangers are fine with the roster for now.

Since Namestnikov had been dropped to the fourth line, there would be no point in promoting Filip Chytil (two assists in Hartford’s two games on the weekend) or Vitali Kravtsov to step into that limited role. Either Greg McKegg or Micheal Haley, who were scratched in each of the first two games, likely will enter the lineup Saturday.

Kravtsov, by the way, was a healthy scratch for Hartford’s second game of the season Sunday. And neither Gorton nor Rangers coach David Quinn said they were overly concerned by that.

“Everybody assumes that part of development is just put someone out there and play him,’’ Quinn said. “And that's not the case. Sometimes there are areas that a player needs to be aware of that are non-negotiable. And if that doesn't happen, then you got to take the proper steps to make sure they understand that. And it's usually for one game, and they go back in. And at 19 (years old), it's a learning opportunity for (Kravtsov).’’

Notes & quotes: The Rangers announced they have signed 18-year-old D Matthew Robertson, the first of their two second round picks in this summer’s NHL draft, to an entry level contract. Robertson, who played one preseason game with the Rangers, is currently playing junior hockey with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.

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