The New York Rangers have stockpiled talent in recent years, and much of it is maturing and reaching the next levels at similar times. The Pittsburgh Penguins are short on blue-chip prospects and could desperately use more talent in waiting, which brings us to a rumored Penguins trade.
We strongly caution against the tendency to accept rumors as gospel. The rumors are sweeping Russia and appear in Sport-Express, a credentialed outlet with a reporter stationed in Pittsburgh. However, translated Russian media is notoriously misunderstood or sometimes unreliable.
The interview took place on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
According to the Russian rumors, the 2018 New York first-round pick (9th overall), Vitaly Kravtsov, would be the Penguins trade acquisition. The 20-year-old winger split last season between the AHL and KHL.
From a first-hand exchange between a Sport-Express interview and Kravtsov:
Reporter: “I heard that an exchange is possible. Even the name of your new club, Pittsburgh, flashed.”
Kravtsov: “I can’t say anything about this.”
The response is open to interpretation. Does Kravtsov not know anything about the rumor, or did he decline to address a potential trade? Here is the full interview.
If GM Jim Rutherford and the Penguins trade for Kravtsov, it would dramatically alter their offseason and perhaps the team.
In 39 AHL games, Kravtsov scored 15 points, including six goals. Before making the jump to North America, he was in his third KHL season.
According to multiple scouting reports, Kravtsov, 6-foot-3 and 189 pounds, is a three-position forward with good skates, offensive gifts including slick hands, and even some defensive awareness. He was recently named to the Russian national team, too.
The Rangers informed Kravtsov they would not invite him to training camp, which the NHL tentatively scheduled to begin next month. That was before the coronavirus second wave, and CBA renegotiations threw the NHL return into doubt.
According to Kravtsov, New York wants him to play more, and the full KHL season offered a better opportunity than the pending 35-game AHL season.
Realistically, the Penguins trade for Kravtsov would be costly. New York selected him between Adam Boqvist and Evan Bouchard, and his star has not faded. The Penguins prospect pool is not deep, but a 2018 first-rounder, especially a top-10 pick, will not come cheap. So, we’ll continue to watch closely as the NHL attempts a return and perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to acquire a top prospect.