Since the New York Rangers used their second buyout window to say goodbye to Kevin Shattenkirk, the question on every fan’s lips has been “what will happen with Chris Kreider?” The team now has some cap flexibility after ridding themselves of the Shattenkirk contract, but with Anthony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux still to sign that flexibility could disappear in an instant. Among the names most commonly thrown around in trade speculation is Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov who are both heading into their final seasons before unrestricted free agency and each carry cap hits of at least $4MM.
Trading Kreider has seemed inevitable at points this offseason, especially when the Rangers decided to sign Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5MM deal. Not only do the two players play the same wing, but Panarin’s contract (along with Jacob Trouba’s) really put New York on a different path financially. Re-signing Kreider would be difficult now, though not impossible. Dan Rosen of NHL.com caught up with Rangers president John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton recently, who both expect the big left winger to be in training camp. They wouldn’t however go into detail on any possible extension, with Gorton even stating that they’ll “figure it out” after Kreider starts the season.
With the Rangers suddenly armed with a glut of young talent there are obvious reasons to move on from Kreider, one of the last remaining veterans from their previous core. Opening up playing time in the top-six for some of their younger players is one thing, but his value on the trade market may be the bigger draw. There’s little doubt that Kreider would draw interest as a trade deadline acquisition, adding speed and physicality to any lineup. He matched a career-high with 28 goals last season and has been a possession monster for his entire career.
Still, if New York starts the season on a hot streak and Kreider is a real part of that, they’re going to have to consider an extension. One of the biggest issues with that is Shattenkirk, ironically. While the buyout opened enough room this season to potentially keep the winger, the Rangers will deal with a $6.08MM cap hit from Shattenkirk next season, a huge number for any team to carry in dead money.
For now, it seems as though there is nothing imminent on the Kreider front. There will be a couple of other pressure points when DeAngelo and Lemieux sign however, meaning there is still opportunity for the Rangers front office to change their minds and another team to make them an offer they can’t refuse.