With coach Don Lucia stepping down, an offseason of change has begun for the Gophers men’s hockey program. There will be a new coach, of course, and the team will lose five seniors to graduation.
And add this: Ryan Lindgren, a top-pair defenseman, will leave the program and sign with the New York Rangers organization, forgoing his junior and senior seasons. Lindgren, a second-round draft pick of Boston in 2016 who had his rights traded to the Rangers this winter, informed Gophers teammates that he will sign with New York, sources said.
He did not attend a Tuesday meeting in which Lucia informed the team of his decision.
Lindgren had two goals and seven assists for the Gophers this season and three goals and 13 assists for his two-year career. The physical defenseman played for the United States in the past two World Junior Championships.
The Gophers have another prominent player who is a risk to leave early: freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt. The eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Buffalo Sabres, Mittelstadt finished second on the Gophers with 30 points on 11 goals and 19 assists in 34 games. The former Eden Prairie High School standout was named MVP of the World Junior Championship after amassing a tournament-high 11 points (four goals, seven assists).
Mittelstadt declined to comment Wednesday on his status.
Also Wednesday, Gophers defenseman Steve Johnson, who just completed his senior season, signed an amateur tryout contract with the Ontario Reign of the AHL. The Reign is the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, who selected Johnson in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.