Rangers President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton both said that they expect Chris Kreider to be with the Rangers when training camp starts next month. (NHL.com)
Davidson said that things can change but that Kreider is a “valued member” of the Rangers and Gorton said that the hope is that Kreider will help the Rangers win games this season. (NHL.com)
Gorton said that Kreider’s experience and ability to produce offensively, while taking some pressure off of younger players, is part of what makes him “important” to the Rangers. (NHL.com)
Kreider is a pending UFA and has been a main topic this summer.
Adam Rotter: As of right now the Rangers expect Kreider to be in training camp come September because he is still under contract but they are also trying to build back their leverage in potential trade talks. Now that Kevin Shattenkirk has been bought out the Rangers don’t need to clear any cap space and aren’t dealing from a position of weakness in trade talks. The Rangers can certainly go to camp with Chris Kreider and even hold onto him all season but it still seems, more likely than not, that Kreider won’t finish the 2019-20 season with the Rangers. There is still a chance he doesn’t start the 2019-20 season with the Rangers but teams around the league are dealing with cap issues and many aren’t willing to trade what they might at the deadline for Kreider because they don’t know how their season will play out.
Could the Rangers ultimately find a way to extend Kreider? Yes, but it will be an incredibly tight squeeze against the cap again next summer before a ton of space opens up following the 2021 season. In that scenario Ryan Strome has to go at some point, Brendan Smith is likely bought out, and depending on future contracts for Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux, Jesper Fast might have to go as well. That is only looking short-term though with the long-term view of a Kreider extension possibly impacting who the Rangers make available for Seattle in the expansion draft, if Kreider has a no-move clause, and how much his cap hit takes up when all of the young Rangers are due new contracts.
Ultimately, I just think it’s a risky move for the Rangers to have Kreider come to camp if they don’t see him as part of the long-term plan. Best case scenario he is able to play like Kevin Hayes did this past season but there is every reason to think Kreider could look more like Mats Zuccarello did for most of the year, before getting it together, and lowering his value. It’s not an easy situation for Jeff Gorton and John Davidson as the Rangers are a much better team this season with Kreider on the roster but they need to figure out whether his value is higher with the team or being traded.