Could the Rangers trade this superstar in 2023?

New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose
Jan 13, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers currently hold somewhat promising odds of winning the Stanley Cup. They are filled with elite veteran players, as well as young talents looking to break out within the coming years. However, this current era of potential will not last forever.

There are a handful of pricey Rangers players who are growing out of their prime. It’s possible that the Blueshirts could attempt to move on from one of these forwards to save money and cash in on his worth now before his value declines.

Will the Rangers consider moving on from a long-term fan favorite?

Chris Kreider is currently the longest-tenured Rangers player, having been with the Blueshirts his entire career since being drafted back in 2009. Anyone who’s been a fan of the Rangers throughout the last decade has grown to love Kreider, watching him develop into one of the best pure goal scorers in recent team history. Despite this, it may benefit the Rangers to consider moving on.

Last season, Kreider scored 36 goals and 18 assists for 54 points in 79 games. Although this is still considered an above-average performance by NHL standards, it’s nowhere near where Kreider should be. Just the season before, Kreider put up career numbers with 52 goals and 77 points in 81 games.

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Kreider has proven to be a somewhat inconsistent player throughout his career, but such a drop in points has never been seen from him before. At 32 years old, it’s possible that his numbers will slowly dwindle down until his goal-scoring abilities have diminished entirely. However, there is still the likely chance that Kreider will bounce back and continue to produce elite numbers.

Kreider’s bulky contract is clogging the Rangers’ cash flow

The biggest downside that comes with keeping Kreider around is his contract. All the way through the 2026-2027 season, the Rangers are trapped paying the forward $6.5 million. When the contract was first announced a few years back, it was immediately obvious that it would not age well for the Blueshirts.

Such a long-term, high-priced contract for an older, inconsistent player rarely ends well in the NHL. By trading Kreider away, it would clear a massive chunk of cash for the Rangers to utilize later in the season when the trade deadline comes around.

There would certainly be an abundance of fan outcry if the Rangers were to move on from a player like Kreider, but it’s possible that GM Chris Drury will make an emotionless decision to help benefit the team.

Opening a spot on the left wing could help one of the kids

One of the biggest opportunities that would arise from a Kreider trade would be for Alexis Lafreniere to have the chance to finally get some top-six ice time. For his entire career, Lafreniere has been buried down on the third and fourth lines, giving him no room to break out as many fans hoped.

After recently signing a two-year extension with the Rangers, the team is banking on a successful showing from the former first-overall draft pick. With Kreider and Artemi Panarin locking up the top two left-wing roster spots, it would take a trade involving either player to open up room for Lafreniere to thrive.

A Kreider trade seems more likely than a Panarin trade at this point, so moving on from a long-term fan favorite may be what it takes to see Lafreniere succeed.

What would the Rangers be losing?

By trading away a player like Kreider, the Rangers would experience some significant losses as well. At least 30-50 goals could immediately be wiped off the team’s record without Kreider in the lineup. Although Kreider is an inconsistent player, he’s still a dependable goal scorer.

The main loss for the Rangers would come from Kreider’s experience. Although he doesn’t wear the “C”, Kreider is a natural leader in the Rangers locker room. Having been around for the last decade, many young and newer players look to a long-term face for advice and inspiration. He’s a highly motivated player who has the team’s best interest in mind.

“Kreider is using the disappointment of the Rangers most recent season to fuel his desire to bring the Stanley Cup back to Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have not been to the Stanley Cup Finals since the 2013-14 season, and have not lifted the Cup since the 1993-94 season. It will be Kreider’s sole focus to end the wait.”

via Clutch Points

While it’s true that there would be an abundance of positive takeaways from a Kreider trade, Drury must also be prepared to manage potential losses as well.