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NHL Draft

Rangers stick to rebuilding plan, select 10 players at NHL Draft

GM Gorton shifts focus to signing New York's restricted free agents

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

DALLAS -- The New York Rangers offered more proof of how committed they are to their ongoing rebuild by selecting 10 players in the 2018 NHL Draft this weekend, including three in the first round.

There was speculation going into the draft that the Rangers would try to trade some of their picks and/or prospects they've acquired since announcing they were rebuilding on Feb. 8 for players who could immediately make them better, but general manager Jeff Gorton said they weren't close to doing that.

 

[RELATED: Complete 2018 NHL Draft coverage]

 

"I came here thinking we were going to make the picks and then see what would happen in the conversations," Gorton said. "And I would say there was probably less conversations than I anticipated, but it seems like maybe some higher-end players in the League right now are holding things back."

So the Rangers selected forward Vitali Kravtsov with the No. 9 pick, traded up four spots, giving up a second-round pick, to select defenseman K'Andre Miller with the No. 22 pick, and picked defenseman Nils Lundkvist at No. 28.

Video: Rangers GM Jeff Gorton recaps Draft

In addition, the Rangers used their second-round pick (No. 39) to select goalie Olof Lindbom, the first of 29 goalies taken in the draft.

"We just drafted 10 players and we felt good about every one of them," Gorton said after the draft Saturday. "Time will tell. I'd be naïve to sit up here and say they're all great, because we don't know. We'll find out as we go forward, but we feel really good today."

None of the players are expected to play for New York next season, but Kravtsov, 18, can buy out the final year of his contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. If he doesn't, Kravtsov said he will come to North America for the 2019-20 season.

"He's a player that wants to be here sooner than later," Gorton said. "I think that will help us."

Miller, 18, who became a defenseman two years ago, will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. Lundkvist, who turns 18 on July 27, is expected to try to play for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League.

All three first-round picks are expected to be at Rangers development camp, which begins Monday.

"I work hard every day to get to this position and I'm excited to get started," Miller said.

Video: Gordie Clark on Rangers first-round picks

Gorton now must get started on improving the Rangers roster for next season without straying from the rebuilding plan put into motion this season with trades of defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning, forward Rick Nash and defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins, and forward Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils.

Gorton said he has had lengthy discussions with agents for pending restricted free agent forwards Kevin Hayes, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey, and defensemen Brady Skjei, John Gilmour and Rob O'Gara. Gorton said he plans to be in touch with the agent for pending RFA forward Ryan Spooner next week.

"I think we're getting an idea of what it's going to take and what's the best way to go going forward now," Gorton said.

Gorton said there was enough trade chatter this week, especially on the draft floor, that he believes there could be player movement coming leading into the opening of the free agent market July 1.

"We have a lot going on," Gorton said. 

Gorton said the Rangers also have zeroed in on some potential unrestricted free agents and do plan to try to fill some holes on their roster that way.

"We have more [NHL salary cap] space than we usually do, but we kind of know what our Group 2s (restricted free agents) are looking for and what it might take," Gorton said. "I think we're in a pretty good spot to talk to as many free agents that we can that we like and we'll go forward that way. … There are some free agents out there that we like."

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