To say Erik Christensen is inconsistent would be the understatement of the year. Christensen has a lot of skill, but he only showcases it about half the time. It is incredibly aggravating to see someone with that much skill just coast through some games. Acquired last season via the waiver wire, Christensen has dazzled at times, and disappointed at times. When he dazzles, he does more than just wow you. The kid has some serious skill, and if he could ever put it all together, he would be a great player. This led to the belief by many that he should be centering the first line. I have always believed that a team relying on Erik Christensen to be their top center is a team destined to disappoint. I am not that far off.
In 112 games since he joined the Rangers, Christensen has 19 goals and 34 assists, for a total of 53 points. To put it in perspective, that is roughly a 40 point per season average for Christensen. Not too shabby, especially for a guy with a $925,000 cap hit through next season. For that level of production, especially if it comes from the fourth line, it is a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, although I do not like Christensen’s game, I do think he serves a purpose as a bottom-six player and a shootout threat.
The problem with Christensen, as mentioned above, is his inconsistency. Out of his 27 points this season, 10 of them came in five games (2/25 @ WAS, four games from 3/12-3/20). That’s almost a third of his points in five games. That is not good enough for a first line player*. Considering his defense doesn’t compensate for his inconsistencies (just a 1.4 DGVT last season), he doesn’t offer much while on the ice. Simply put, if you aren’t producing, you can’t play defense, and you don’t win faceoffs (49.4%), then you don’t deserve a lot of ice time.
*-I know the Marian Gaborik argument is going to get brought up, so let me just say that Gaborik is 100x the player that Christensen is. The 2010-2011 year was an off-year for Gaborik. The 2010-2011 year for Christensen was the norm. There is a big difference there.
In the end, Christensen’s contract likely saves his future with the Rangers. He is signed for another year at under $1 million, which makes him affordable as a bottom-six guy. He brings an added element to the shootout, as he is almost automatic in the skills competition. Arguments can be made to keep him, arguments can be made to dump him for a draft pick. Personally, I think Christensen stays for the rest of his deal, unless he is included in a trade package –he has no trade value on his own– for a roster upgrade. I highly doubt the Rangers keep him after next season though.