New York Rangers: Could Antti Raanta Actually Replace Henrik Lundqvist For the Playoffs?
Jan 31, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts skating to the bench after being replaced by Rangers goalie Antti Raanta (32) during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

By now most of you know the lists of all protected and non-protected players in the upcoming expansion draft. ESNY dives deeper to take a closer look at this event, something that hasn’t taken place in the NHL since the 2000-2001 season.

As of Sunday morning, it was announced that the Rangers decided to take the 7-3-1 format and protect the following players:

Obviously, missing from this list are Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Michael Grabner and Antti Raanta.

Many teams are exploring the idea of trading a pick or prospect in order to have Vegas steer clear of players that had to be left unprotected. However, it appears the Rangers did not take this approach.

So at this point, the Rangers stand to lose a very solid backup or a regular contributor to their bottom six. I, for one, is under the impression that bottom six forwards are replaceable annually.

I do really like what Quickie brings to the table for the Rangers and would be upset if he is taken. Fast is currently rehabbing back from offseason surgery and is expected to miss the start of next season, so hopefully, that will be enough to scare Vegas off. Oscar Lindberg is also a very steady contributor to the Rangers bottom six who would be missed if selected.

Larry Brooks writes that he feels Lindberg is someone who could benefit from a Derek Stepan trade and could slot into the top six. I don’t necessarily see that, but I feel he could contribute on a third line. But someone like Michael Grabner, whose 30 goals last year was quite the enigma, is someone the Rangers could afford to lose.

Yes, he brings a boatload of speed to the lineup, an element clearly missing when Carl Hagelin was traded, but the number of goals for Grabner was well above average for him, something no team should expect out of him annually.

So what to keep an eye out for? Watch to see if the Rangers make any deals with Vegas to see if they can sway Vegas away from one of those forwards or Antti Raanta.

I’m somewhat surprised that Raanta wasn’t traded, as it appears he is a seriously hot commodity and Gorton could probably fetch a decent return of secondary pieces for his lineup. Many teams now view him as a starter, and when teams are desperate for goaltending, they will overpay. But nonetheless, Raanta is still a Ranger and is dangling high right now for the Vegas Golden Knights.

What’s so entertaining about the expansion list of protected and unprotected players is the speculation on why someone was chosen to be so. Some GM’s feel George McPhee of Vegas has 3-4 first round picks in his back pocket, which is highway robbery in some cases. But no one really knows why Minnesota chose to protect Jason Zucker over Eric Staal, who just came of his best offensive output since the 2012 season. Or what Detroit was thinking exposing Petr Mrazek and protecting Jimmy Howard.

But again, it’s all purely speculation and no one can be certain of the deals teams have in place with Vegas to not go after certain players. Vegas will have plenty of talent to work with here, and I think we’ll be much better off than Atlanta when they started. They have signed a Russian Center by the name of Vadim Shipachyov who was a top scorer in the KHL last season and should help bring immediate stability and offensive ability to their top six right away.

The Knights are also rumored to be set to go with Marc-Andre Fleury, a relatively young goaltender who’s led the Penguins to Stanley Cups. Also on the back end, the Knights could get Sami Vatanen from the Ducks as well as one of three nice young defensemen from the Minnesota Wild in Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, or Jonas Brodin. Look for the Knights to have a really decent first year.

After the expansion draft noise calms down and teams move into preparations for the NHL Entry draft, watch for the floodgates to open up on trades. Derek Stepan’s name has been hot in the rumor mill in the days leading up to the expansion draft roster freeze, as the Arizona Coyotes seem to be one of the teams that are very interested in him.

Could Step land someone like Oliver Ekman-Larsson in return? I have my doubts but also remember; Scott Gomez got us Ryan McDonagh so there’s that (Thanks, Montreal.)

Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.