Chris Kreider had an excellent season for the New York Rangers despite trade rumors, and he was rewarded with a seven-year, $45.5 million contract extension. While a broken foot and the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the winger from setting career-highs in goals and points, the Blueshirts should be ecstatic that they re-signed Kreider, and should expect him to have an impressive 2020-21 season.
Kreider’s Strong 2019-20 Season
Kreider had an excellent 2018-19 season with the Rangers, as he finished with 28 goals and 24 assists in 79 games on a team that struggled offensively. He formed chemistry with linemates Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich and stayed on a line with them this season.
That chemistry paid off as they were New York’s best line early in 2019-20, in large part because of Kreider’s strong play. He went to the front of the net and scored repeatedly on deflections as well as on rebounds. In addition to that, he did a lot of the dirty work for the line, winning battles for the puck and battling for position in front of the net.
While Zibanejad was the star of the line, Kreider did a bit of everything for the team, including showing off impressive playmaking ability for a power forward, as well as using his speed to blow by defenders. Most importantly he scored a lot of goals, with many coming late in games, including a game-winner in the final minute of a game against the rival New York Islanders.
Kreider had been on pace to score 30 goals for the first time in his career when he broke his foot blocking a shot. He finished with 24 goals and 21 assists in 63 games. In addition to his scoring, he was very good defensively. He won battles in the defensive zone, blocked shots and was responsible with his positioning.
Kreider’s Impact on the Power Play
Kreider did a lot of things well for the Blueshirts and one of his biggest contributions was on the power play. He is one of the most skilled players in the league at scoring on deflections, and the power play provides him plenty of opportunities to do just that. He has consistently scored in front of the net on the power play and has given the team more opportunities to shoot by winning battles for the puck and preventing opponents from clearing it. He also provides excellent screens, as defenders are unable to move him from the front of the net, which leads to goals on shots from the point.
The rise of Zibanejad and Tony DeAngelo, along with the Panarin signing, have given the Rangers more skilled players on their power play but Kreider still provides the muscle and grit in front of the net. His fearlessness and willingness to go to the dirty areas in front of opposing goaltenders creates havoc and helps everyone else on New York’s power play.
Kreider Plays Well Under Pressure
Kreider has also played well under pressure in the past and the Rangers appear ready to compete for a postseason spot after announcing they were rebuilding just two seasons ago. They should have plenty of important games late in the season and possibly postseason games as well.
This season, 5 of his 24 goals were game-winners. He has also stepped up in the postseason so far in his career. He has 24 goals and 15 assists in 80 playoff games, including plenty of clutch goals late in games. He had an overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in the first round in 2013. He also had two memorable game-tying goals late in regulation, one against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 and the other against the Washington Capitals in the second round in 2015.
Kreider has struggled with consistency throughout his career but he tends to raise his game in big moments. After a few consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, the Rangers are back in contention, which means he should have more chances to come through in important games.
The Rangers should have high expectations heading into next season and Kreider will be a key player for them. Despite getting swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in their qualifying series, this was New York’s best season since they lost in the second round of the postseason in 2017, and they also hit the jackpot, winning the first pick in the NHL Draft Lottery.
New York will likely add star winger Alexis Lafreniere with the first pick of the 2020 NHL Draft and while he plays the same position as Kreider, that shouldn’t make Kreider’s role any less important or take away his playing time. He just needs to keep playing as well and as hard as he did this season.
The Rangers should expect to have success next season and they should expect Kreider to be one of their top players.