Player: Chris Kreider
Cap Hit Outlook: Restricted Free Agent in 2016-2017, Previous Hit 2.475 Million
Status: Top Six Forward
2015-2016 G-A-P: 21-22-43 in 79 games
Chris Kreider has had an interesting road to the NHL. During John Tortorella’s tenure (2009-2013), Kreider was the source of plenty of ridicule from the ever-boisterous head coach. Kreider has many stints up and down from the AHL, where he could never really find his game. In 2013, the first year of the Alain Vigneault era, Kreider finally got his time to shine. After a short 6 games in the AHL he was recalled to the big show and produced 17 goals and 20 assists. Even more notably was his playoff performance that year netting 5 goals with 8 assists in 15 games during a deep Rangers run to the Stanley Cup.
Since Kreider’s inaugural season with the New York Rangers, he has been painfully consistent. I say painfully only because many Ranger fans expect more than a 20-goal scorer in Kreids. In the last two seasons he’s posted almost identical numbers with 21 goals, 25 assists in 2014-2105, and 22 assists this year. Again, Kreider has shown that he can step up in big games posting above average playoff numbers with 7 goals in 19 games last year, and 2 goals in a short series against Pittsburgh this year.
Enough about statistics, lets talk about heart. Aside from Zucc, I’m not sure there is another Ranger who plays with more passion. Kreids never takes a shift off, never gives up a chance to throw the body, and is willing to stick up for his teammates (often more so than the people who are paid to do so). Early in his career, his aggression was a liability, taking many offensive zone penalties that were avoidable and frequently reminding net minders of his presence.Most notably was his aggressive drive to the net that sidelined Carey Price in a pivotal Conference Final against Montreal, propelling the boys to the Stanley Cup. To this day I still believe it was unintentional, a loss of balance on a breakaway, after a hard slash to the skates from Alexi Emelin. Nonetheless, Kreider has changed as a player. Kreider has cut his penalty time almost in half from last year to this year, showcasing his newfound discipline on the ice. The comparison of the old overly aggressive Kreider and the new more disciplined Kreider is truly a double-edged sword. While the team can’t afford to take mindless penalties, especially with the PK falling apart, Kreider has lost his “edge” on the ice. This year, we never got a look at the old Kreider who was explosive on the ice, driving to the net, and creating scoring chances. In my opinion, a bad penalty here and there is worth Kreider being able to open it up and instill fear into the opposition. In a perfect world, Kreider will be able to find a blend of both edge and discipline where his skills can be displayed to their fullest extent.
Lets talk money and the future. I think it’s easy to say that Kreider has a home in New York for a long time. With his size, raw skills, and passion, the sky is the limit for his potential as a hockey player. Did I forget to mention that he is only 25 years old? Kreider is currently coming off a 2 year, 4.95 million-dollar bridge deal. Needless to say, he is expecting a handsome payday. With his untapped potential and consistency the Rangers need to be willing to pay him for the foreseeable future. The Rangers should be looking to sign Chris to a 4 or 5-year deal in the ballpark of 4.25 million. Kreider is worth every penny with his current performance, but imagine if he maximizes his game and become a 30+ goal scorer being paid at a premium into the future.
I’m optimistic that Kreider will develop into a true goal scorer once his game is completely developed. Whether or not his potential can be maximized under AV’s current system and demeanor is another question. Something tells me Kreider needs a coach and system that is a little more smash mouth, to get him amped up before every game. Only time will tell, but lets hope next year is his breakout year with a new long-term contract.
Do you think Kreider will ever reach his maximum potential? Let us know in the comments sections below. We’ll give a reply with our take.