With each day that passes without a Chris Kreider extension, the closer we get to a Chris Kreider trade. Whether or not the Rangers actually sell is still up in the air, but the smart money would be on a few trades when they fall far out of contention. Not doing so –and then letting him walk for nothing– would be an egregious mismanagement of assets.
So now we look at what Kreider could bring back in a trade at the deadline. Some of what Kreider brings back is dependent on what the Devils get for Taylor Hall. They are the top two wingers available, but it’s safe to assume Hall brings back more. He’s more skilled, if more fragile. Kreider is a matchup nightmare who is also struggling a bit this season. Funny enough, he played best with Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich, and not with Mika Zibanejad. An acquiring team gets a top-six forward with an unmatched combination of speed and strength. He’s also one of the best net-front presences in the game.
The easy market value is simply to look at what Mats Zuccarello got for the Rangers, which was a pair of conditional 1sts that were in reality a 2nd and a 3rd. The high end of this might be a Kevin Hayes return, which was a 1st and a bottom-six young roster player/prospect, but centers get more than wingers on the trade market. The wild card here is the aforementioned matchup nightmare of speed and strength. Old school GMs love that stuff.
In a rare gut feeling observation, I’m going to make an educated guess that Kreider fetches more than Zuccarello on the trade market. Too many GMs value size and strength, and while Kreider doesn’t have the hands that Zuccarello does, he has a knack for big goals in the playoffs and goes to the front of the net. I know, it’s just a hunch, but I’m trying to bet on old school GMs being old school.
Given my bold prediction above, I think Kreider gets the Rangers a guaranteed first round pick. I really do. Maybe I’m just biased, because I’m also one of those that wants them to re-sign him –I have my limits on term, I’m not crazy– and give him the C. That puts him more in the Hayes return territory than the Zuccarello territory. Where the line is drawn is Mark Stone territory – that kind of return for a top prospect (Erik Brannstrom), a roster body, and a 2nd round pick isn’t happening.
With the smart money on the Rangers selling on Kreider at the deadline, Jeff Gorton is going to again need to nail this one to keep the rebuild momentum going. Kreider might be the final big name to be traded as the Rangers move into the next stage of their rebuild. Zuccarello’s name arguably hurt the most, but it may be Kreider’s departure that gives the next generation of Rangers their team to build.