Chris Kreider likely getting traded after Rangers contract impasse
It looks like Plan B for the Rangers, which means that you should plan on watching the team without Chris Kreider on the roster following Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Plan A, as we first reported on Friday, was to sign the pending free-agent winger to a contract extension. But according to sources with knowledge of the talks, management and Kreider’s party — and ultimately, the player — were unable to reach an agreement as of Sunday night.
Indeed, the divide on the contract term, with the Rangers offering six years and Kreider asking for the seven years he will almost certainly command on the open market July 1, remained an immovable obstacle neither side was able or willing to hurdle in order to make a deal. There was also a difference on the money, with the Blueshirts believed offering under $7 million per.
So barring a late change of heart by Kreider, who apparently is in his last day as a Ranger after nearly eight years as a member of the organization, the Blueshirts will spend Monday sifting through trade offers, not only for No. 20, but in a cascade effect, for fellow pending free-agent winger Jesper Fast and perhaps others on the varsity.
That represents Plan B. If management had been able to come to an agreement with Kreider, the Rangers were prepared to hold tight and make a run. But removing that top-six piece from the picture changes the dynamic. The Rangers won’t give Fast away, but they are likely to deal the four-time-running Players’ Player if they can get a second-rounder as part of the package in return.
The Blueshirts also might be prepared to listen if teams come calling on Brady Skjei or Marc Staal, the latter of course with a no-move clause he would have to waive. Staal has one year at $5.7 million remaining on his contract. Since returning to the lineup Dec. 6 following ankle surgery, Staal has been on the ice for 16 goals against in 456:40 of five-on-five hockey. Only nine defensemen in the NHL have played at least 450 minutes of five-on-five in that time frame and have been on for fewer goals against than the 33-year-old.
It is stunning that contenders in need of veteran depth on the blue line have not deluged general manager Jeff Gorton with calls on No. 18. Tampa Bay, anyone? Again, though, Staal would have to waive his no-trade and the Blueshirts would have to agree to assume up to 50 percent of his pay (a total of $4.2 million next year) and cap hit. It’s a lot for one morning.
The Rangers are expecting business on Kreider to pick up dramatically Monday morning, with most interested parties having hung back while New York management focused on a contract agreement. The Avalanche are interested and so are the Bruins, despite their acquisition of Ondrej Kase on Friday. St. Louis is believed a bidder. The Lightning may well check in. The Golden Knights are believed intrigued.
The Islanders might at some time have checked in, but there is essentially no chance the Rangers would send Kreider across the East River while the teams are engaged in a battle for a wild-card spot and set to meet on Tuesday at the Coliseum. Unless, of course, Lou Lamoriello would like to divest himself of Mat Barzal.
President John Davidson, GM Gorton and the Rangers made a choice here, just as did Kreider, and it’s probably not the one either would have chosen in an ideal world. Of course, though under no obligation whatsoever to do so, the B.C. Kid could change his mind and decide that less in New York is more. But barring that, the Rangers will go forward and make the best deal possible under the circumstances, hopefully able to wheedle a package that yields results more in line with the Rick Nash deal with Boston than the Ryan McDonagh-JT Miller deal with Tampa Bay. Hopefully the Rangers will deal here from a position of strength and refuse to allow interested parties to wall off their top-three, four or five prospects. Kreider has the ability to help deliver a Stanley Cup to his new team. That team should be forced to pay for that opportunity.
The Rangers would have gone forward with Kreider as part of the rebuild. This was not an automatic recycling of a veteran. This was not a choice to take a step back in order to attempt to take two or three steps forward two or three years down the line. Instead, the choice by management was not to go seven years on a contract and the choice by Kreider was not to accept six.
So here comes Plan B.
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