For the Rangers, it may come down to Chris Kreider or Artemi Panarin, and not both
As we’ve progressed through the offseason, we’ve done a lot of exercises about how the Rangers can fit both Chris Kreider’s extension and Artemi Panarin’s massive UFA deal under the now $81.5 million cap ceiling. Prior posts and analysis had the cap at $83 million, and that extra $1.5 million goes a long way to getting this to work. Now though, it looks like it needs to be one or the other.
Kreider’s extension is likely coming in at five or six years at $6.75 million per season. He is 100% worth this deal. If it’s the six year variety, it takes him through his age-34 season. Sure it’s risky, but it’s also $5 million less than Panarin’s expected seven year deal at $11.5 million. He is likely going to get that kind of money. The question has become whether it is more prudent to keep Kreider at almost half of what Panarin will cost.
Panarin is a 30-goal, 80-point guy. Kreider is a 25-goal, 50-point guy. So the key is assists which are driving Panarin’s point differential from Kreider. That’s expected, as Panarin is an elite playmaker. He plays from the outside, sees the offensive zone extremely well, and has the tools to put up the goals and points at more than a point per game last season. Kreider, on the other hand, is a middle of the ice player whose net-front presence is difficult to match up against. Add in his rare combination of speed and strength, and you have a matchup nightmare for the opposition, and something that the Rangers would lack if they send Kreider packing.
From what Ian Fleming posted above, Kreider is also the more well rounded player. In terms of offensive drivers, Kreider is a small step below Panarin, which again is expected. However Kreider is a significant impact on defense, whereas Panarin is about league average. That’s very important for a developing team that will struggle on the defensive side of things as the kids grow.
Something else to note is that Kreider is actually slightly better than Panarin at producing team shots at even strength. It’s not a big difference, and Panarin is significantly better than Kreider with the man advantage, but it’s something worth noting.
The reason why these little items are worth noting is the aforementioned price difference between Kreider and Panarin. The Rangers would take a significant step forward offensively and on the powerplay, but would also probably take a step back defensively while losing their fastest skater who is also their strongest net-front presence. It’s a trade-off.
For the Rangers, this can be a crucial decision to make. If they tie up $11.5 million into Panarin, they need to make sure they get it right. That’s a contract that can completely kill all the momentum of the rebuild if it goes sour. However it can also give the Rangers the second (third?) elite winger and scoring threat. That’s incredibly difficult to match up against. But then again so is Kreider.
Interestingly enough, there really is no wrong answer here. Signing Panarin is in line with their vision of accelerating the rebuild. Passing on him means showing restraint. Keeping Kreider means keeping a core member. Trading him recognizes he may not be a part of their future. It’s amazing how a rebuild leaves all your options open.
Then again the wrong contract to the wrong player, be it Panarin or Kreider, can completely throw this off the rails.