Hartnett: Rangers Are At Crossroads With Kreider


As the weeks move closer to the Feb. 24 trade deadline, expect Chris Kreider’s name to be continually linked with several Stanley Cup contenders.

The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins – really any team looking to upgrade their top-six should be doing all they can to win the Kreider sweepstakes.

New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) pressures San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the third period on Dec 12, 2019 at SAP Center in San Jose.Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

After all, Kreider is an uncommon player in this league. His blazing speed and finishing ability makes him difficult to contain. Add in his dominant net-front presence and success at winning puck battles – and opponents really have their hands full.

Put Kreider in the right situation and he could make the difference between a first-round exit and a Stanley Cup championship parade in June. Supplemental scoring is a huge factor in the playoffs. A contender would stand to benefit tremendously with Kreider added to the mix in a second line and power play role.

Ever since Taylor Hall landed in Arizona, Kreider has been the hot commodity. Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton can expect a bidding war once the trade market takes shape – but that’s only if the Rangers are ready to move the 28-year-old.

Kreider provided a fresh reminder of his value to the Rangers by netting the game-winning power play goal over the rival Islanders in Thursday’s 3-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. With 24.6 seconds remaining in regulation, the 6-foot-3 wing camped out in the low slot and shoveled in the rebound chance.

The Rangers are essentially at a crossroads with their longest-tenured forward. It’s either commit to an expensive seven-year extension or wave goodbye and get a maximum value return. If Kreider’s ask is near $7 million in annual salary, it could be tricky for the Blueshirts given the current stage of their rebuild.

If the Rangers are still a few years away from vying for Lord Stanley, why should they tie up $6.5-to-7 million of their cap to a forward who is yet to eclipse 53 points in a single season? If Kreider fails to emerge as a late bloomer offensively and loses some of his speed in his 30s, that kind of contract could be burdensome.

The decision to extend or trade Kreider will say a lot about how the Rangers view the progress of their rebuild. Locking him down to pricey, long-term pact would be a clear signal that the organization can see a Stanley Cup window opening.

Strong cases can be made whether to keep or trade Kreider. I don’t envy the tough call that Gorton, John Davidson and co. will need to make in the coming weeks.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey