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Latest on coaching search, Nils signed his ELC, now what?

June 6, 2021, 5:02 PM ET [605 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Very little traction has been made on the Rangers' coaching search to date. Craig Morgan reported that Rick Tocchet had a second interview. We know Gerard Gallant had one with Chris Drury before he left to coach Canada in the World Championships. Other than those two, from what I have seen no other coaches have had formal interviews.

Gallant helped lead what could be referred to as a rag-tag Canadian team to the Gold Medal, taking down the US in the semis and Finland in the finals. Now that the tourney is over, expect those teams looking for a coach to start the hard court press on Gallant. Columbus is rumored to have heavy interest, though JD could also look to David Quinn, while Seattle might be in the mix. In addition, congrats to Braden Schneider for winning the gold.

For New York, some speculation has been they may want to see what filters out from the playoffs and see if a coach or two becomes available. Mike Sullivan's name was prominently mentioned, due to his connections with the Rangers and GM Chris Drury, but all signs appear to point to Sullivan remaining in Pittsburgh.

Rod Brind'Amour might be an option if the Canes fall to Tampa and the rumor deal that he was working on falls through. In addition, with Ron Francis in Seattle, could that be a marriage again? Brind'Amour was working on taking care of his assistants, causing a delay in his contract. If nothing pans out, I would love him in NY. I still say, Gallant is the favorite, though New York does have competition for his services.

Question 17 was: Will Nils Lundkvist sign an ELC and come over to North America? (TommyGTrain). We received our answer on Thursday, as Nils signed his ELC. All the concern and speculation that the issues from this season and the depth on D would preclude him signing ended when ink was put to paper.

The three-year entry level contract has a cap hit of $925,000 and an entry-level performance of $850,000, the team announced Thursday. With an average-annual value base of $832,500 plus the entry-level bonuses, Lundkvist, if he makes the NHL roster, would own a cap hit of $1.775 million. If Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Morgan Barron, K’Andre Miller, Adam Fox and Lundkvist are all on the opening-night roster, the Rangers will be charged $3.225 million over the bonus allowance. Lundkvist was also awarded the same entry-level bonus as Fox, Kravtsov and Barron. Keep all this in mind as the team looks to fill in holes on the roster, but the potential future bonus cap hit is down from this year, affording the team some additional room, along with the decline in dead cap space from about $13 million to probably around $4.5 million.

Of course, right after signing, the next question was, would he actually play for the team or get dealt? Selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, 28th overall, Lundkvist has steadily gotten better. Reading the official press release evidence that fact.

Lundkvist, 20, skated in 52 games with Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) this past season, registering 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points, along with 30 penalty minutes. He was named the winner of the Salming Trophy in 2020-21, which is awarded annually to the best Swedish-born defenseman in the SHL as selected by Hockey Hall of Famer Borje Salming...Lundkvist's 14 goals in 2020-21 were the most by a defenseman in one season as a U21 player or younger in SHL history...Lundkvist recorded five assists in three games at the 2021 IIHF World Championship. He helped Sweden earn a bronze medal at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship, and he also represented Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship

The right-handed shooting blueliner should be in North America this summer and compete for a shot on the active roster. I would not be shocked if he earns a spot, similarly, though, I could see him open the year at Hartford and get promoted, as we have seen with several of the team's other prospects. New York has what we believe to be a wealth of possible options on D, the question is who remains and who is dealt, especially for a center. In addition, associated with this? Jacob Trouba has five more years to go on his deal while Adam Fox is clearly entrenched. Schneider fills the physical quotient along with the potential to add offense, which makes him unlikely to move.

As Jimbo pointed out, Lundkvist has recently played the left side, which is not an easy transition for a right blue liner, same for a lefty to the right side. If Nils can play there, part of the log jam is eased and leads to my next point. If a blueliner is to be dealt, my view is that it will be Zac Jones, presuming Nils is believed to be as good as they think he will be. In addition, Jones' rise the past three seasons - capped by the below tweet on him being named one of the three best players at the world championships - his value might never be higher. I don't want to deal him, nor would I make the Nils and the #15 overall pick this year for Tomas Hertl, who has one year left until he is a UFA, as was mentioned in the comments on my last blog. 

This is where Drury and Glen Sather will need to earn their money. No easy decision exists. Making the right one will help accelerate the team's future. But we know what might the result on the flip side.

Here is the latest version of the top-25 questions, several of which will be fairly easy, incorporating your suggestions from the prior blog. Where your question has been listed, I have noted credit next to it, as I have done in the past. These will be tackled as the offseason continues, but again, I throw this to you to provide me the ones you have in case I have missed any.

1) Will David Quinn be back as the coach?
David Quinn and most of his staff fired, now what.
2) If Quinn is not back, who should take over as coach? Gerard Gallant? Mike Babcock? John Totorella (who won't return to Columbus and was mentioned by Nick Kypreos below)? Rick Tocchet? Kris Knoblauch? Other?
3) With Mika Zibenajed a free agent after next season, would you start contract negotiations now, and if so, what type of deal would you offer in terms of years and dollars?
4) Pavel Buchnevich is an RFA with arb rights after next season, what would you do with him? Re-sign him long term or deal for a second line center?
5) New York is in the market for toughness and more physical play, where are you slotting that player in? If in the top-six or top-nine, who is in danger of losing his spot and why?

6) Is Jack Eichel still your primary target at center or has his neck injury coupled with the reported high ask from Buffalo and his $10 million salary changed your tune?
7) If Eichel is not the target, do you make a proactive move to try and acquire Aleksander Barkov or wait to see if he becomes a free agent after next season? If Gabriel Landeskog is not re-signed by Colorado, are you making him a priority this offseason?
8) Vincent Trocheck is.a free agent after the 2021-22 season, given how his game has rebounded, could he be an option if Eichel and Barkov are not acquired or signed?
9) Have you seen enough of Flip Chytil at center to determine he is not a fit there, even as a 3C, or did his play before the wrist injury and post-COVID after effects provide enough interest to give him one more shot?
10) Was Kaapo Kakko's sophomore season a disappointment or did the progress he showed - especially late - raised your expectations for next season?

11) Who will be exposed for the Expansion Draft? (TommyGTrain)
12) What will happen to ADA? Is there any circumstance where he could return? (TommyGTrain - but pretty clear the answer on this one is he won't be back. That was made very evident in the column by Larry Brooks that ADA's time with the Rangers - despite the "regime change" is over.)
13) What grade would you give Alexis Lafreniere's rookie campaign? Is he viewed as a top-line left winger for next season? What are his main areas of work this offseason?
14) Which veteran d-man do you want to be acquired or signed this offseason (within reason)? (have seen names such as Alec Martinez and Erik Cernak suggested) If Brendan Smith is brought back, do you still want another d-man added?
15) Depending on who is lost in the expansion draft, are you comfortable with two-thirds of the fourth line coming from Colin Blackwell, Kevin Rooney and Morgan Barron next season? Where do you slot Barron in, third line center?

16) Do you bring back Alexandar Georgiev as the back up goalie, try and re-sign Keith Kinkaid to be the back up or sign another free agent goalie?
17) Will Nils Lundkvist sign an ELC and come over to North America? (TommyGTrain)
18) Is a Captain needed, and if so, who should wear the C on his chest? (musicnutz) (Does Ryan Lindgren's three year, $3 mil AAV extension add his name to the mix?)
19) Are you protecting Brett Howden from the expansion draft, and even if he is, does he have a guaranteed spot in the lineup next season? (musicnutz)
20) Presuming Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, K'Andre Miller, Zak Jones, Ryan Lindgren are your top-five next season, how are you modifying the d-pairs or does it depend on who is #6?

20) Which one or two of the young ones do you look to lock up for a longer-term deal now?
21) If the Rangers stay in their current spot in the lottery, do you trade the pick for immediate help or start to build up the future pipeline?
22) What would be a successful season in your eyes? Making the playoffs, advancing, a long run?

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