One of the bigger questions about this offseason isn’t about the blue line, or about free agency, or about the draft. It’s about Chris Kreider. The 28 year old winger is on the last year of his deal and carries a $4.625 million cap hit. He’s due a raise next season, given that he’s a consistent 20-goal scorer who has gotten to 28 goals in two of the past three seasons. He’s consistently around 45 points, although he has crossed over 50 points in two of the last three years (2017-2018 was a rough one for Kreider).
The fanbase appears to be divided here, and it appears to be an almost even split between those who want to trade him and those who want to re-sign him, likely in the six-year, $6 million range. While it doesn’t necessarily matter what we want to happen, it does matter what and how Jeff Gorton, John Davidson, and the soon-to-be revamped Rangers front office wants to accelerate this rebuild.
What puzzles me about all this Kreider talk is that the camp that wants to trade him is divided into two parts. The first recognizes his actual value, talent, and rare combination of speed, skill, and brute strength, and his penchant for late-game dramatic goals. This group recognizes that in a continued rebuild, dealing Kreider lands a bunch of pieces. The second group just dislikes Kreider because…reasons?…and just wants him gone. We can ignore this second group.
The one thing we know for sure is that, barring an actual hockey trade in which the Rangers dangle Kreider for a true top defenseman, any Kreider trade doesn’t accelerate the rebuild. Any trade used to acquire draft picks or prospects is a step in the rebuild direction and not in the acceleration direction. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a trade, but it guides us into what kind of trade to expect.
Kreider for Jacob Trouba, straight up, has been floated again and again. I don’t think that makes sense for Winnipeg. If you expect that Kreider, in any trade, would be headed to the Western Conference, then there aren’t many teams that have the cap space for him that are truly competing. There’s certainly deals to be made here, though.
Trading Kreider eliminates a risk of him not re-signing in New York. It also eliminates the risk of a bad contract being on the books for way too long. We are all a little shell shocked when it comes to big deals for players who are approaching their thirties. There is certainly a strong argument for this.
The counterpoint is that by trading Kreider, you rely too much on the hype train of Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov making the leap to the NHL and being impact/top-six players immediately. You also rely too much on backing up the truck for Artemi Panarin. There are too many question marks there to assume the team can accelerate the rebuild without Kreider.
This situation is a prime opportunity for the Blueshirts to remember their mistakes. Looking back at the Derek Stepan trade, the Blueshirts assumed they would get Lias Andersson –the target was Elias Petterson, but the Rangers couldn’t move up from #7. That’s a story for another day– into the lineup right away, and that Tony DeAngelo would figure it all out. Neither of those things happened and the Rangers fell off a cliff in that 2017-2018 season. Thus the rebuild began.
That’s not to say trading Stepan was a mistake. That’s noting that trading a roster player with the expectation of kids and/or free agents filling that gap is a mistake. It’s a big mistake. In the effort to accelerate a rebuild, giving Kakko, Kravtsov, and the other rookies time to acclimate to the NHL is almost as important as giving them the minutes they deserve.
Another risk of trading Kreider: The Rangers lose basically their only net-front presence. Kreider was a beast in front of the net. In terms of on-ice impact, Kreider’s strength in front and his significantly improved deflection and screening skills are almost invaluable. For a Rangers team that wants to get better quickly, trading one of your best forwards, who happens to have significant chemistry with your 1C and a budding winger who appears to be on the cusp of a breakout year, doesn’t accomplish that goal.
Then again, in the right deal, Kreider is far from untouchable. It’s all a grey area.
What do you think the Rangers should do?"To trade Chris Kreider or not to trade Chris Kreider: That is the question",