The Rangers are done for the year. The remaining games are meaningless, serving only to #fuelthetank and get a look at some of the kids who may be on the bubble for next season. All attention is going to be on the April through June months, as the Rangers are poised to make more moves to help rebuild the roster. The biggest move is going to be behind the bench, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the roster is safe.
One player that many people have focused on is Chris Kreider. He’s the second highest paid forward on the roster, with another two seasons remaining at $4.625 millions. His rare combination of speed and skill make him a match up nightmare, and he would likely fetch a haul at the draft. The argument to trade him makes sense.
However as mentioned above, Kreider is a matchup nightmare. Now that he is finally being used regularly in front on the powerplay, he’s starting to contribute even more with the man advantage. He’s a guy that can beat you down the wing, or with his strength in front. There aren’t many in the league that can keep up with him or out muscle him, let alone both.
Kreider’s stats are down this year, but let’s be real for a second. Everyone’s stats are down this year. Kreider has the ability to take over a game, as we saw against Pittsburgh last week. We’ve seen more consistent dominating performances. Perhaps that is what happens when you’re being given a de facto leadership role?
From a possession standpoint, Kreider is one of just two current Rangers who have played the full season who has a CF% over 50%. Zibanejad is the other skater. CF% certainly isn’t the best indicator of success, especially when you look at the tire fire the Blueshirts have been all year. That said, when he’s one of just two guys over the 50% mark, it might mean a little more. He’s also one of four guys –again, not including the trade deadline acquisitions– over 50% xGF% (Zibanejad, Buchnevich, Zuccarello), which has a bit more clout to it, since it includes quality of shots as well.
The rebuild is going to require some level of leadership role. Instead of going with the canned “leader” that has intangibles but nothing else, why not try to mold Kreider into a leader? He’s familiar with the guys on the team. He seems to be respected, at just 26 years old. He’s on the top line. He’s not exactly overpaid. He’s pretty good at this hockey thing. Leadership can be taught to the mature player.
Any potential Kreider trade stems on the value he can retrieve. If there’s a knock your sock off offer, then by all means trade him. But if there’s anything remotely close to the deals we saw at the deadline, then I lean towards keeping him. Can’t trade everyone, after all.