This all seems very familiar. The New York Rangers and Chris Kreider have negotiations scheduled because he’s a RFA? Check. Kreider files for salary arbitration? Check. Two sides give their demands? Check. Silence? Check.
Two years ago Kreider and the Rangers dragged their negotiations out until just before the hearing was scheduled to begin. Back then, Kreider agreed to a two-year bridge deal with promises of later riches once he came off the deal.
Now we’re there and the two sides haven’t come to a new agreement yet.
That’s not something to be totally worried about. More cases than I can recount to you here go right up to the opening gavel of arbitration before being settled out of court. I will say, however, that with how reasonable Kreider’s demands are, I’m shocked we don’t have a long term agreement yet.
Arbitration should be the last thing Jeff Gorton and company want. Not just because it’s a bitter process that can turn really ugly on a personal level, but because it would make Kreider far more expensive down the line.
I argued the Rangers messed up in bridging J.T. Miller, getting a bargain now before having to deal with this in two years. Kreider’s earned the right to get a long-term deal, and the Rangers need to jump on that opportunity. He’s coming off a “down year” where he was still one of the team’s best forwards. His all-around game was, has been and will continue to be spectacular, and to sign him for five or six years for roughly $5-million per would be proper value for him now and more than likely a steal going forward.
Since he hasn’t hit the 30-goal mark -- the barometer for fans who think he’s stagnated — some think he needs a “prove it” contract to show the Rangers what he can do. The problem with that pretty little idea is that a 30-goal Kreider can demand upwards of $6-million a year if not more. Why, exactly, would you want to take that risk if you don’t have to.
I don’t know what the hold up is between the two sides. The Rangers are remarkably good at keeping the beat reports and national insiders out of their business when they’re working. The Derick Brassard trade? No one saw that coming from a mile away. The Miller extension? Same thing. The Nick Holden trade? Well, you get the point.
Kreider is the type of player you bank on. He’s defensively sound, is a possession monster and has all the tools to be an elite goal scorer in this league. If he doesn’t put all his offense together and hovers around 25 goals a year, still gives you that possession, playmaking and defense? He’d easily be worth his $5-millionish a year.
The Rangers showed much needed foresight with the Brassard trade, getting younger, cheaper and potentially more skilled. Locking Kreider down long term would be a big step in continuing to prioritize the right players, and moving on from the problems that plagued the team all year.
Letting him get to arbitration or (worse) signing him to a one-or-two-year “prove it” deal?
Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.