On Sunday evening, the Boston College Eagles defeated the UMD Bulldogs, 4-0 to secure another trip to the Frozen Four. The significance of this, for us Rangers fans, of course is that Chris Kreider’s season continues. Likely to the point where he will not be able to be signed in time to play in the regular season, and as a result, will not be eligible for the post-season roster. In my humble opinion, this is the best possible outcome for both the organization and the player.
If all the scouting reports pan out, Chris Kreider is going to be a game changing player. A legitimate power-forward with 30+ goal potential and blazing speed. He is physically ready for the NHL right now, and could have potentially been a huge boon to a Rangers’ squad with some serious offensive question marks. Combine this with the fact that Mats Zuccarello (whose strong play was helping a toothless power play considerably) is now out indefinitely with a broken wrist, many fans began clamoring for the front office to sign Kreider and install him directly into the lineup.
This reaction is understandable, given that with the Rangers’ strong play this season, many of us have set our sights on goals much loftier than we had at the outset of the season. While Kreider may have been able to make an impact, the best decision would be to let him finish his season and assign him to the Connecticut Whale.
While I am not a scout, since the NCAA tournament has been televised, I have watched Kreider closely for the past two games. In my opinion he still has some need for further development. While it is readily apparent that he has physical tools in abundance, he does not dominate the college game like you would expect for someone with his skill set. His decision-making was much better than I expected given the early scouting reports, but he doesn’t appear to have the confidence to take control of the game just yet.
There is a certain killer instinct you can feel whenever an elite player carries the puck, goes to the net, or battles along the wall. In order to dominate at any level you must have it. When a player’s hockey IQ is fully developed, they don’t worry about where they are on the ice or where their coverage is. They understand and can dedicate their focus to anticipating plays and winning battles. Kreider appears to be a little too conscious of not being caught out of position, or supporting the breakout properly, and some of that intensity is lost. With all of that said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with where he is in his development, he just simply needs more to be the difference maker we Ranger fans hope he will be.
From the organization’s standpoint, it simple CBA math. If Kreider plays for the big club this season, he will burn a full year off his entry level deal. As we have seen evidenced by both Rick Nash and Zach Parise’s upcoming payday, 30+ goal scorers with solid secondary skill sets are expensive. They generally will cost anywhere between 5-8 million per season. When all the Rick Nash talk was going on, those against the acquisition would often cite Kreider’s presence and the pending raises of some core young players as reasons to exercise restraint.
Now, assuming Kreider becomes what we expect him to, how much do you think he will cost come the end of his entry deal? To burn a year of near league minimum salary (especially at the beginning when he isn’t performing to peak production) for a handful of games is irresponsible asset management. This season was the first real glimpse into the Rangers’ window of contention, and if it would be shortsighted for the club to carve out their prospect depth and long-term cap flexibility on a high powered scoring winger, wouldn’t they be just as shortsighted to pass on a year of cost control for a player with a similar skill set?
Just like all Rangers fans, I would love nothing more than to see Lord Stanley return to Broadway. I was all about trading for Rick Nash at the deadline because I think the Rangers need an infusion of skill both now and in the future. Kreider’s situation is all about balancing the short and long term. He needs to be put in a position to succeed and not be brought in to be the White Knight for a struggling offense.
Chris Kreider could be a big part of the future of this franchise, whether it is in pure production or trade value. Either way, Kreider’s situation needs to be handled carefully in order to see a maximum return on his value. In short, we should all be rooting for BC to advance to the National Championship game because it is the best thing for Kreider and the Rangers going forward.