Two very similar questions for the mailbag this week. As always, use the widget on the right to submit your questions.
I’m all aboard the Kreider for captain train, assuming he is re-signed. That’s a big IF right now, but the short answer here is that yes there is a realistic scenario in which Kreider is re-signed. The cap situation, especially with the Vlad Namestnikov trade positively impacting next year’s cap via fewer ELC bonus overages, is not as bad as folks make it out to be. The Rangers can afford Kreider at $7 million next season, even with $7.5 million in dead cap space due to buyouts. This does assume a Brendan Smith to Ottawa trade after his $1 million bonus is paid next summer, though.
As for his place on the team, I agree that he is needed on the team. There is so much Kreider does that isn’t accounted for on the score sheet, and his rare combination of speed, strength, and net-front presence is a matchup nightmare for the opposition. Kreider is also very clearly the only Ranger that not only gets in front of the net regularly, but is good in that role. His screens are great and lead to many goals, which again doesn’t really show up on the score sheet.
In terms of realism, it’s about how long the Rangers want to commit to a 2LW that will be 29 when his contract expires. If they see eye-to-eye on term and dollars, he will stay.
Carlos asks: Kreider has a lot of strengths, but he’s simply not a $7 million guy. He’s not a difference maker and hasn’t been able to elevate the second line at all.
Carlos brings the other side of the argument, which is valid as well. Kreider is being looked at to lead that second line with Ryan Strome and Kaapo Kakko, and they’ve looked relatively lost in the first two games. Grain of salt: It’s been two games and Strome has been awful all preseason. That line looked good when Filip Chytil was there for a hot second in the preseason.
NHL free agents get paid on track record and not on what they are going to produce going forward. It is exceedingly rare to get value out of UFA deals, and that’s where Kreider, at 29 years old next season, is headed. Market value may put him at $7 million, but term is always the question.
These are the kinds of contracts that ruin rebuilds if Jeff Gorton isn’t careful. There is no issue paying top dollar for elite or top of the lineup talent, the way he has for Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba. Kreider is not that top-end talent, failing to hit 30 goals and 60 points throughout his career. Despite him being a matchup nightmare and a physical and skating force that does a lot of little things right, he’s not that elite talent you overpay for.
Accepting what Kreider is an isn’t is going to be the hardest part for most fans. I am all aboard team Kreider and want him to retire a Ranger. However I am unwilling to go eight years at $7 million for him. Heck, I’d probably be unwilling to go six years at that dollar amount. If the Rangers can get him signed at that $7 million hit through his age-34 season (five years), then great! If not, then we need to take a long look at how that contract might impact the future contracts of expiring, high-end talent ELCs like Kakko, Vitali Kravtov, and others.