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Should the Rangers explore trading options with Chris Kreider?

Bobby Bevilacqua

chris kreider full body 12-15

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Chris Kreider has shown a ton of potential and upside ever since entering the league in the 2012 playoffs, scoring five goals before ever playing a regular season game. He scored 17 goals in the 2013-14 season, and topped that with 21 goals and 46 points last year.

It seems like many people had predicted that Kreider would break out and become a consistent 20 goal scorer, maybe even hitting the 30 goal mark, including myself. Head coach Alain Vigneault had high expectations for Kreider before the season started.

But he hasn’t lived up to expectations. While the offense has been very good this year, scoring 2.93 goals per game, Kreider is one of the forwards that hasn’t been a big part of the scoring. Despite playing on the second or first line for almost every game, he has just six goals in 39 games. He’s scored just two goals in the last 14 games, and three in the last 22 games.

So with Kreider struggling, should the Rangers try and trade Kreider?

When it comes to hockey, and especially the Rangers, the salary cap is the first issue that comes to mind. This past offseason, Jeff Gorton had to trade Carl Hagelin because he couldn’t afford him. Hagelin went to Anaheim and got $4 million a year, becoming the latest Rangers cap casualty.

It’s looking more and more like that will be the case with Kreider. With his combination of speed and size, he’s one of the unique players in the league. He can throw the body and hold off defenders, but then he’ll surprise you by blazing past a defender and cutting to the net.

As an RFA, Kreider could fetch anywhere from $4-5 million dollars, a contract that Jeff Gorton cannot afford to sign. There are a lot of upcoming free agents for next season, and not a lot of money to work with.

That also leads to the next point; evaluating the ceiling and potential of the pending free agents. The main ones are Kreider, Kevin Hayes and JT Miller.

Despite his slump, I’d argue that Kevin Hayes has more talent and a higher ceiling than Kreider has. In his rookie season, where he scored 17 goals and 45 points, we saw an excellent passer, good hands, the ability to maintain puck possession, and a versatile player that could play all three forward positions. And despite tallying just two points in December, Hayes has just one less point than Krieder.

Looking at Miller, we’re starting to see why the Rangers drafted him with the 15th overall pick in 2011. He has eight points (4-4-8) in the last 10 games, and a total of 20 points this season. He’s the only Rangers forward with more shot attempts when he is on the ice (405) than he has against (397). His linemates have been producing more with him than without, and he’s becoming stronger and more physical without losing any part of his game.

Oh yeah. And he’s only 22 years old.

Kreider probably has the lowest ceiling out of all three of the players. He’s definitely the fastest and strongest forward on the team. And it looks like he could develop into one of the better power forwards in the league. But he also has some weaknesses.

When Kreider tries to get into the zone, it almost always results in him trying to beat the defender on the outside, using his speed near the boards before cutting to the front of the net. That’s not an ideal angle of attack, and it often results in a bad angle shot that doesn’t really challenge the goaltender. He also hasn’t grasped the concept of properly screening the goalie, and doesn’t move enough when screening.

While his strength and physicality is appreciated, it gets him in trouble. He makes quite a few reckless and dangerous hits, often resulting in penalties and. Most recently, he hit Florida captain Willie Mitchell into the boards, getting two minutes for interference, while Mitchell was lucky to avoid injury.

While there is certainly a potential for Kreider to grow into a solid power forward, I question whether he is a bit too one-dimensional. His plan off attack is always the same, and if it doesn’t work, he doesn’t adjust well. That’s why he goes stretches of multiple games where you forget that he’s on the ice.

With all of the money tied up on defense and goaltending, the Rangers don’t have a lot of wiggle room to retain all of their young forwards. Kreider has shown flashes of brilliance as well as dry spells with inconsistency, so a multiple year, $5 million per year contract could be very risky.

Kevin Hayes and JT Miller are the more versatile, higher ceiling players, and keeping them is important for the team’s future. So trading Kreider may be necessary to keep the more talented core of the team together.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a very good player and there is potential to be a great forward. But there is also a chance that he’s already hit his ceiling as a 20 goal, 40 point player. So if Gorton decides to trade him, I would understand, but it better be for a good package.

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Posted on January 8, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Staal or Girardi need to go to clear up cap space. McIlrath has shown he can fit right in. Yandle played his best hockey beside him. And Boyle’s salary comes of after this season too.

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