Rangers’ Kreider Heading Towards the Rafters

Chris Kreider has been a New York Ranger for the entirety of his career thus far. He has had his ups and downs, but there is no denying the numbers that he has accumulated. Once he chooses to hang up his skates, there will be a compelling argument as to whether or not his jersey deserves to be retired, which is a funny thing to say out loud, considering that in 2020 a lot of people wanted Kreider to be dealt.

When the Rangers signed Kreider to a contract extension worth $45 million over seven seasons, there were mixed emotions. Kreider was adamant that he loved being a Ranger, but many people thought his inconsistency and tendency to disappear for long stretches made this a detrimental contract. Everyone loved Kreider, but as a player, the deal was viewed as an overpayment in terms of salary.

Two years later, Kreider just finished a historic 2021-22 season that saw him score 52 goals and lead the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final. Not only did the veteran winger break out offensively, but he shored up his two-way game and was the epitome of a leader on and off the ice.

It has been an unsung career thus far for the 31-year-old Massachusetts native, starting at 20 when he debuted in the Stanly Cup Playoffs. A whirlwind of emotions and memories has come and gone from that moment on, and Kreider has gone from the new guy on the block to the veteran presence and last remaining link to the 2014 Stanley Cup roster.

At 31, Kreider has set himself up for a run at some of the franchise marks and has already surpassed some legends in others. The question begs to be asked; if Kreider finishes his career as a Ranger, does his jersey get raised to the rafters?

Where Kreider Currently Sits in Rangers’ History

When glancing over what Kreider has done with the Rangers, it is incredible to consider the names he sits amongst after just 10 seasons. This postseason, the Rangers’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals saw Kreider tally his 34th postseason goal, tying Rod Gilbert for the most in franchise history. Odds are he will surpass ‘Mr. Ranger’ next season.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His 100 playoff games are fourth all-time for the Rangers, 30 behind Henrik’s Lundqvist record. He has amassed 55 playoff points, which is fifth all-time, and he will move up the list in both categories. Brian Leetch holds the record for most playoff points with 89, but Kreider sits just two points behind Don Maloney for fourth and 12 points behind Gilbert for third.

Related: Rangers’ Prospect Brennan Othmann Opens Options for Front Office

Kreider continues to move up the regular season ranks as well. The forward has appeared in 654 games (19th all-time), has tallied 423 points (14th all-time), and has 229 goals (10th all-time). His special teams’ prowess has allotted for 84 power-play goals already in his career, which is fifth all-time. It has been a memorable ride for Kreider, who is on contract through 2026-27, and could potentially be around even longer. (Data courtesy of Quant Hockey and Hockey Reference).

Odds are Kreider will not be putting up goals at a 50-per-season pace like he did this year, but now that he has finally eclipsed the 30-goal mark that haunted him for years, we could see his totals continue to climb the list.

Can Kreider ‘Cement His Legacy?

Numbers alone might not be enough to get Kreider into the rafters, but there are still ways in which the former first-rounder could solidify his spot in Rangers’ lore. For starters, Kreider exemplified brilliant leadership this season (from ‘Emotional Chris Kreider holds back tears with ‘sting’ of Rangers playoff exit still strong,’ New York Post, 6/14/22). For a team that has not had a captain since the departure of Ryan McDonagh after the 2017-18 season, it certainly felt like Kreider has stepped in as the honorary leader.

This season, winning the ‘Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award’ epitomized how much Kreider meant to the Rangers as a teammate and leader. And if he is finally awarded the ‘C’ at the beginning of the 2022-23 season, that will only boost his Rangers’ resume.

Building on that, Kreider has a track record of playoff success in his time as a Blueshirt. With or without the captaincy, if Kreider is able to win a Stanley Cup during his Rangers’ tenure, that may cement his legacy and enshrine him in the rafters. Not to mention if he does it after being named captain, that only helps his case.

By the end of his career, Kreider will likely finish first in Rangers’ all-time marks for playoff goals and power-play goals, he will likely push for the top spot in playoff games played and goals, and should finish in the top-ten in both games played and points.

It’s hard to fathom, but barring any unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances, Chris Kreider has the opportunity to be a top-10 Ranger of all time. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in hockey, but Kreider is definitely on a trajectory to make a very compelling case for why his number 20 should never be worn again.

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