The New York Rangers seemingly avoided disaster last night, as star Chris Kreider suffered an injury that appears to have looked worse than it actually was. A prone Kreider took an accidental knee to the head from teammate Mika Zibanejad early in the second period of Saturday’s match-up with the Detroit Red Wings and he did not return to the game. Head coach David Quinn, like any who witnessed the incident, was fearful that Kreider may have suffered a serious head injury. However, he told the media, including The New York Posts’ Brett Cygralis, that he felt much better after seeing Kreider after the game. “That looked like a really severe blow to the head,” Quinn said. “He wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought he would be. After the game ended, we talked, and it’s a lot better than I anticipated.” Quinn stated definitively that Kreider did not suffer a concussion, but the team is considering him day-to-day nonetheless. Kreider is simultaneously the best trade chip on the rental market and one of the Rangers’ most important pieces as they continue to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Fans of both trading Kreider or keeping and re-signing him know that a serious injury at this point in the year would have been a nightmare in either scenario. Fortunately, it sounds as though Kreider will be fine and could be back in action in no time.
- Another surprise development from Saturday night was the absence of Kasperi Kapanen in the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup. Kapanen was made a healthy scratch by head coach Sheldon Keefe, but prior to game time there was no word as to why. Speaking to the media, including TSN’s Kristen Shilton, after the game, Keefe clarified the situation with Kapanen. Keefe stated that Kapanen was a healthy scratch, essentially serving a one-game suspension for what he called an issue of “internal accountability’”. He added that it was a one-time thing and the decision was only made yesterday morning, but he would not go into any more detail. More information may emerge when Kapanen has media availability on Monday. In the meantime, speculation has begun that Kapanen, a frequent name on the rumor mill, could be on the outs with Keefe and his staff. With the rest of the Maple Leafs playing well since Keefe took over, perhaps Kapanen will end up being the winger dealt out of Toronto at some point.
- Impending free agent defenseman Jake Muzzin would like to stay in Toronto, but Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston says that it is not that simple. Johnston hears that early extension talks have been difficult due to the Maple Leafs’ cap constraints and the potential market value of Muzzin. With St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo and Boston’s Torey Krug both considered likely candidates to sign extensions, Muzzin would enter the conversation as the top defender available on the open market this summer. While he may be willing to take a slight discount to stay in Toronto, the potential to command a top-of-the-market contract if he opts for free agency will certainly play a major role in extension talks. The Maple Leafs may be unwilling or unable to pay him even close to what the top UFA defenseman will get this summer.
- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom is another name who has made it known that he would like to re-sign, though acknowledging that he could have considerable value in the free agent market. Markstrom, an All-Star this season, has quietly positioned himself to be one of the best available in a weak goalie market should he opt for that route. However, Markstrom would prefer to stay in Vancouver and he and the team have been working toward an extension, Johnston reports. However, with Thatcher Demko showing NHL ability this season and Michael DiPietro also in the pipeline, the Canucks will be wary of going overboard on salary or term to keep Markstrom. The contract offer that keeps coming up is of a two-year term, keeping Markstrom in Vancouver through the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. This would give the team another year to decide whether Demko is the real deal or if they are better off moving forward with Markstrom, as either would could be a tempting target for the Seattle expansion franchise. Johnston’s colleague Elliotte Friedman adds that, as for salary, the most recent offer to Markstrom is rumored to be similar to the two-year, $9MM deal signed by Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper in October.