When Chris Kreider first emerged during the 2011-12 playoffs, the New York Rangers were in a different place. At the time, the Rangers had a realistic chance of hoisting the Stanley Cup. And as Kreider — who was selected by the Rangers 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Level Draft — worked his way up, the Rangers looked to keep their championship window open as long as possible.
Today, the Rangers are focused on rebuilding, with familiar faces shipped out for fresh youngblood in the hopes of regaining top team status. November offered some hope for more success in 2018-19 than anticipated; however, nothing is certain with a young, inexperienced team.
But one player leading the way is Kreider, an alternate captain who has survived the veteran purge (for now). Fans have debated as to what should happen to the remaining veterans. Combine his play, the Rangers’ rebuild, the chance (even if minuscule) of a playoff spot, and the performances of certain players, one has to wonder what awaits the 27-year-old.
It’s no secret if the Rangers offered up Kreider, offers would fly in. But like Kevin Hayes, who seems to have won folks over with his play to the point he can be considered a leader, shouldn’t the same be said about Kreider?
What Kreider Brings to the Table
For a team that is struggling to score, Kreider is doing just that. He leads the Rangers in goals with 16 through 34 games. His eight assists give him a total of 24 points, third behind Mika Zibanejad and Hayes.
His 94 shots are second on the team behind Zibanejad’s 105, and 13 more than the third-ranked Hayes. His 17 percent shooting percentage is ranked third on the team. The two players ahead of him, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome, don’t shoot as often, and Strome didn’t get to New York until last month.
Of course, this is a team led by a defensive-based, rookie head coach in David Quinn. He wants his team to be fast, and play with pressure and physicality. While he isn’t as young as a prospect, Kreider may be the perfect example of the kind of player Quinn wants on his team.
Kreider’s Role With the Rangers
Speed is Kreider’s forte, and he’s not afraid to throw his body around and be aggressive when chasing after the puck. It’s forced him into the box several times throughout his career, but his penalty minutes have decreased yearly, so he’s learning how to be a more disciplined player.
His molding as Quinn’s kind of player could go a long way to keeping him around. And for Kreider to come back after a blood clot last season and continue to put up eye-catching numbers and lead a rebuilding team should never be forgotten.
In fact, Kreider is the kind of player that all the young prospects can look up to. In the past, he was considered more of a follower than a leader. He was able to share speed with the likes of Carl Hagelin, and he was able to contribute offensively behind Brad Richards and Rick Nash.
But those guys are gone, and Kreider’s role on the Rangers has changed. It’s something he’s well aware of and Quinn feels he can handle.
Potential Trade Status
Any remaining connection to the Rangers of the past will be discussed; Kreider is no exception. Last month, New York Post columnist and Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award winner Larry Brooks suggested the Rangers send Kreider to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for William Nylander.
Obviously, it’d be great to have a bright spot and contributor like Nylander. The Rangers are right to focus on players like Zibanejad and Brett Howden. And despite having a one-year deal on a team with plenty of center depth — a perfect combination for a Hayes trade — Hayes may be playing his way into staying. But does that all equate to moving Kreider?
Call it any cliche you want, Kreider, Hayes and Zibanejad are playing like the Three Musketeers, or the PB&J and bread. They are the producers; what’s to say one has to be exiled, especially if it’s Kreider? Sure, their line was broken up before a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but at least it spreads the playing power across the lines.
The Rangers need help offensively, and maybe they can find someone to try to be another offensive standout. But why is the answer to trade a guy who is giving you that and then some?
Kreider’s contract situation isn’t much better than Hayes’, but at least if Kreider stays, you know he’ll be around for at least next year. The same can’t be guaranteed for Hayes, especially if he shops for the big-money deal he’s previously wanted. And if the Rangers do somehow trade Kreider, whoever they get for him should be monitored and evaluated to a high degree.