One of the biggest questions looming over the offseason for the Rangers is how they will manage their RFAs. They have four players potentially headed to arbitration, the most important piece being Chris Kreider. Kreider’s combination of skill, size, and speed is difficult for opposing teams to match up against, making him priority number one for the Rangers. Initial guestimates had Kreider coming in on a multi-year extension worth $5 million per season. Steep price to pay for Kreider, but that’s the market value nowadays.
Enter Kyle Palmieri of the Devils, who this week inked an extension to stay in New Jersey for five years at a $4.65 million cap hit. The contract includes a modified no-trade clause for the UFA years, the last three years of his deal. Prior to his 30-goal campaign this past season, Palmieri had never even hit the 15-goal mark, with his career high being 14 goals.
Kreider and Palmieri are strikingly similar. Both are 25 years old. Both are 2009 first round picks. Both played in the NCAA. Both are entering their third contracts. Both have two years of team control before hitting UFA. Aside from production –Kreider has a pair of 20-goal seasons under his belt already– the only major difference is Palmieri entered the NHL a year before Kreider, with his second contract being a three year deal to Kreider’s bridge deal for two years.
Kreider is the more consistent player, notching a pair of 40 point seasons on his bridge deal, with a 37 point season before those. He’s averaged 43 points (18 goals) per season the past three years.
When comparing them directly, it’s clear Kreider is the better player at even strength. They are equal in goal scoring, but Kreider is the better playmaker and producer offensively when playing 5v5. The shot generation/suppression numbers are also heavily in favor of Kreider. If the Rangers were to sign Kreider to a Palmieri deal, it would be a bargain up there with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard.
While I still believe Kreider gets $5 million, the Palmieri contract comes with the vaulted “30-goal guy” title. Kreider hasn’t hit that point, and may not if the Rangers powerplay continues to be inconsistent. The Palmieri deal helps the Rangers immensely, as it may actually lower the cost to lock up Kreider long-term. Instead of potentially $5 million, the Rangers could be looking at the high-$4 million range.
Palmieri is probably the closest comparable we can get to Kreider. It appears that the Rangers are one of the few teams remaining in the league that do not value possession stats, giving some recent trends in decision making. That may actually help them in their negotiations, as Kreider doesn’t have that coveted 30-goal scorer moniker. The Rangers need all the savings they can get, and Palmieri’s deal might have been one of the better things to happen to the Rangers this offseason.