The Rangers officially kicked off their off-season Friday morning by signing banned free agent Brett Howden, a strategic move that broadens their options for the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
With about a week until each NHL team’s deadline to submit their final safety list for the expansion draft — which is set for July 21 — the Rangers signed Howden to an $885,000 one-way contract, according to The Post. has learned.
The move gives the organization another option to meet the expansion requirement to expose the two forwards under contract in 2021-22. Before signing Howden Friday, the only logical choices the Rangers had were Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell. Rangers are expected to defend Mika Zibnejad, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strom and Filip Chitil.
Now, Howden is even more vulnerable to being exposed, and will come with a cheap price tag that may be tempting for Kraken.
Uncovering Howden would allow Rangers to defend Blackwell, who worked his way into the top six last season, while racking up 12 goals and 10 assists in 47 games. Blackwell, a grinder who wins puck battles and gets in dirty areas, brings many of the qualities that Rangers are hoping to enhance their lineup to become a playoff contender.
Howden, selected in the first round by the Lightning in 2016, has played all 178 games of his NHL career with the Rangers over the past three seasons. A penalty killer primarily in a bottom-six roll, Howden is coming on the offensive in the 2020-21 season, with just one goal and six assists in 42 games.
Since he was acquired by Rangers in February 2018, who sent former captain Ryan McDonagh to the Lightning, Howden has accumulated 16 goals and 33 assists.