With the clock ticking down, the New York Rangers and the camp for Chris Kreider have filed their respective briefs in advance of Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing, as we earlier reported on Pro Hockey Rumors. The Rangers offered a figure of $3.2MM while Kreider has requested $4.75MM in salary for the 2016-17 campaign.
The apparently wide gulf is indicative of a typical negotiating ploy being utilized by both parties. Kreider’s side comes in on the high end while the club submits a lower number, each with the knowledge that arbitrators typically award a number comfortably between the two positions. Should this actually go to a hearing, and there is every reason to believe negotiations on a long-term deal are being conducted as we speak, the arbitrator likely would award a one-year salary of around $4MM, roughly near the midpoint of the figures exchanged.
If we operate under the supposition both sides are willing to do a long term deal, what would Kreider then be worth?
Kreider’s is an interesting case. Still just 25, the former Boston College standout and former first-round pick possesses a rare blend of size, speed and skill. The six-foot-three, 226-pound winger is among the fastest straight line skaters in the game today and creates numerous scoring chances due solely to his physical skills. When fully engaged, Kreider has the ability to dominate entire games with his speed and physicality.
Following a 21-goal performance during the 2014-15 campaign, it was believed Kreider might finally be realizing his vast potential and a 30-goal season was considered the logical next step in his development. But Kreider struggled with consistency in 2015-16, an all-too-frequent experience during his burgeoning career (and frankly one shared by many young players), and needed five tallies in his final eight games to match his 2014-15 output.
Still, 20-goal scorers in their prime and with additional offensive upside are not cheap. Fortunately, a couple of recent RFA signings can be used for comparative purposes to help determine just how much Kreider may be worth.
Kyle Palmieri recently inked a five-year deal with New Jersey that comes with an AAV of $4.65MM per season. Palmieri is coming off a better platform campaign than Kreider, tallying career highs in both goals with 30 and points with 57.
Meanwhile, Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a three-year, $13.75MM contract which averages out to just under $4.6MM annually. Johansson finished the 2015-16 season with 17 goals and 46 points.
On the surface both would seem to serve as obvious comparables. And while their contracts certainly help us hone in on Kreider’s potential value, the big winger has some advantages over his peers that could boost his value.
First, even though Kreider’s 43-point 2015-16 output falls short of Palmieri (57) and Johansson (46), his 1.85 points/60 at five-on-five (5v5) scoring rate over the last two seasons is superior. Johansson has recorded a 1.68 points/60 at 5v5 and Palmieri comes in at 1.55 over that same time frame.
Second, Kreider already has extensive postseason experience and has excelled when it matters most. He’s potted 20 goals in 65 playoff contests since debuting during the 2011-12 postseason, scoring his first playoff goal a week before his 21st birthday. Palmieri has tallied seven goals in 33 postseason games. Johansson also has seven playoff goals, albeit in 56 contests.
The New York Rangers relatively quiet foray into free agency, and the recent trade of Derick Brassard to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad, has left the Rangers with $10.65MM in cap space according to General Fanager. With only Kevin Hayes and Marek Hrivik remaining unsigned as RFAs, it seems reasonable to conclude the Rangers have the financial wherewithal to offer a deal in the range of $5MM annually for five years. This would allow the club to buy three unrestricted free agent seasons and lock up one of their top young players through his prime years at what could be a very affordable price should he ever meet his 30-goal potential. Even as a 20-goal scorer, the cost wouldn’t be too out of line with what is paid on the open market.