Chris Kreider
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Chris Kreider enters this year in the final year of his contract, and the New York Rangers must decide their plans regarding his future. 

Dom Renna

Over the last seven years, Chris Kreider has developed into one of the more important forwards for the New York Rangers. However, there are questions about his future in the organization as the end of his contract nears.

The Rangers find themselves in an interesting position with Kreider considering how their rebuild is about to take a major leap forward after acquiring the second overall pick in the draft. While they continue to get closer to the ultimate goal, they absolutely must figure where Kreider fits in the long term this summer.

It would be a big mistake if they went into this summer not thinking about their plans regarding Kreider; it will only carry over into the season and serve as a major distraction. It would be another Mats Zuccarello case, especially because of how important Kreider has become in that locker room over the last few years. Nobody wants to have rumors about his future hanging over his head all season. Sooner or later, it is going to affect his production on the ice.

Let’s look back at the Zuccarello situation. It really is the perfect example of how athletes are human and actually do think about things like this. At the 2017-18 trade deadline, Zuccarello publically admitted how seeing a bunch of his teammates moved at the deadline was a huge distraction. Now his play didn’t dip that year, but actually admitting the effects it has is something you don’t see too often from an athlete.

Now back to this year, and it was obvious how Zuccarello thinking about his future started to have an impact on his game on the ice. This is something the Rangers need to avoid with Kreider because it will hurt them in the long run.

Without a doubt, Kreider posted the best season of his career in 2018-19. He was one point short of his career high in points. Moreover, he tied his career high in goals at 28 along with tallying 24 assists. You can argue how the end of his season was a bit of a disappointment considering his start, but we learned at the end of the year how he was playing through an injury after the trade deadline which clearly affected his game.

The ideal scenario for the Rangers would be to lock him up long term before the season begins. It allows for his situation to become a non-story, especially after the last two years of trading key players. Signing him during the summer means he won’t get asked the questions at training camp that he’ll have to answer awkwardly because what exactly is he supposed to say other than, “I love it here and want to remain a Ranger?”

Signing him also sends a message to Ranger fans that the rebuild is starting to shift in a different direction aside from the main focal point of acquiring draft capital the last couple years. It sends a message of trying to focus on contending in the next three to five years and would honestly send a wave of energy all throughout a fanbase tired of seeing their beloved players get moved.

Even with those reasons, the main reason New York should focus on re-signing him is that he’s a unique player with a unique skill set the Rangers would miss drastically. Kreider’s ability to crash the net with his speed and physical prowess along with the skill he possesses is something the Rangers don’t have enough of. It’s something head coach David Quinn honestly would want to see more of up and down the lineup. They have one other player similar to Kreider’s game in Brendan Lemieux, but he does not have the skill that Kreider has.

Reports out there are saying Kreider might be demanding somewhere between $37 and $42 million over six years, and that might be a bit much for the Rangers who will soon have to worry about young players finishing their entry-level deals. If that’s the case, the time to trade him is in the summer and not wait for the deadline.

If they traded him this summer there is a chance a team is willing to spend a little more compared to at the deadline because they’ll be getting a full season out of Kreider instead of a month and the playoffs. A move in the summer allows for whatever prospect the Rangers might receive in return to get a full look and if the Rangers get a draft pick back, they could look to move that pick for an NHL ready cost-effective player. It simply gives the Rangers options along with taking the headache of another trade deadline speculation season for a team who’s moved 14 players since February 2018.

The New York Rangers find themselves with plenty of big questions as this summer begins to unfold. The question surrounding Chris Kreider’s future is one that should place at the top of the list before 2019-20 gets here.

Follow Dom on TWITTER

Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.