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Rangers loan Vitali Kravtsov to KHL team after he refused demotion

Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov during practice on

Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov during practice on Sept. 25. Credit: Noah K. Murray

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Rangers and forward Vitali Kravtsov have reached a thaw in their frosty relationship. The team announced Wednesday it has loaned the young Russian to his old KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, after Kravtsov had walked away from the organization following his demotion to AHL Hartford.

"After discussions with Vitali and his representation, we decided a loan to Traktor was in the best interests of both him and the organization,’’ Rangers general manager Chris Drury said in a statement announcing the move. "We think very highly of Vitali, and the Rangers’ development staff will continue to work with him to reach our mutual goal of him some day being a New York Ranger.’’

Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet reported that Kravtsov, 21, can be recalled by the Rangers after the KHL season ends, and according to Friedman, Kravtsov is "open to returning.’’

That would seem far-fetched, though. More likely, the Rangers understood that if they are going to be able to trade Kravtsov, the first of their three first-round picks in the 2018 NHL draft (No. 9 overall), he is going to need to be playing somewhere, to make him more attractive to teams potentially interested in acquiring him.

This was the second time Kravtsov walked away from the team after being sent down to Hartford. In 2019, when he came over from Russia for his first training camp with the team, he failed to make the Rangers’ opening night roster, and sulked upon being sent to Hartford. He left that team, returned to Russia, and was suspended, then ultimately loaned to Traktor. When Traktor sent him down to their minor-league affiliate, the Rangers brought Kravtsov back to North America and assigned him to Hartford, where he finished the season. Drury was the GM of Hartford at the time.

The following season, 2020-21, Kravtsov stayed in Russia and was again loaned to Traktor for the season. When it was over, he came to North America and played 20 games for the Rangers, scoring two goals with two assists.

This season, Kravtsov had seemed ticketed for a spot on the third line when training camp started, playing with Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil. But Kravtsov got hurt in a preseason game against the Devils and missed some time. While he was out, Julien Gauthier stepped into his spot and performed well. And when it came time to finalize the opening night roster, Gauthier made the team and Kravtsov was sent to Hartford. It seemed like it would have been a short stay, but Kravtsov refused to go, and instead returned to Russia.

His agent, Daniel Milstein, told Newsday he appreciated the way Drury and the Rangers handled the situation, and called them "world class people.’’

Kravtsov was thankful, as well.

"I want to thank the Rangers for working with me, and appreciate the open and honest conversations we have had during this process,’’ Kravtsov said in the release. "While this has been a challenging time for me personally, I believe having the opportunity to return to Traktor and work on my game is the best thing for me right now. My main focus is getting better every day to continue towards my goal of playing hockey for the New York Rangers.’’

Notes & quotes: The Rangers also announced they have signed 19-year-old forward Matt Rempe to an entry-level contract. Rempe was their sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft.

New York Sports