It will be at least another year until 2018 first-round draft pick Nils Lundkvist joins the New York Rangers. That’s okay for now.
On Saturday, Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League announced they signed defenseman Nils Lundkvist to a one-year contract extension. Lundkvist, a New York Rangers first-round pick in 2018, will not be able to join his NHL team until the season ends in Sweden next spring. If he plays for his native country in the 2021 World Championships, the Blueshirts like won’t have him until 2021 training camp.
Lundkvist was selected 28th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The third, first-round selection the team had that year. New York chose him behind right wing Vitali Kravtsov (9th overall) and defenseman K’Andre Miller (22nd).
New York acquired the 28th pick as part of the return from sending Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller to Tampa Bay at the 2018 trade deadline. It was one of the moves New York made shortly after the infamous “We can’t win with this group and need to rebuild” letter then-NYR President Glen Sather sent out to Rangers fans.
The 19-year-old, right-shot, puck-moving defenseman is taking the correct approach. Lundkvist has plenty of quality defensemen ahead of him on the New York Rangers depth chart. If he came to camp this fall, the young blueliner would be behind Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Lindgren, Marc Staal, Brendan Smith, Libor Hajek, and possibly Miller. In his best-case scenario, Lundkvist would have had a coffee with Hartford before heading back to Lulea on loan.
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By doing it this way, the situation works for all parties involved. Lulea keeps a young star for another season. Lundkvist plays for the team he should be on, to get quality minutes against high-level competition. Finally, the New York Rangers don’t have to burn a year of his entry-level contract.
By September 2021, the Blueshirts will be rid of Staal and Smith. Additionally, either Lindgren or Hajek could go in the expansion draft to Seattle. Lundkvist should have a much better chance to make the team at that point. If not, he’d likely be the power play quarterback in Hartford for the 2021-22 season.
Very rarely do win-win-win scenarios like this come about in professional sports.