The first marquee trade chip of the season has already been dealt.
With elite winger Taylor Hall shipped from New Jersey to Arizona in mid-December, the trade market has officially opened. And as is often the case with big-ticket deals, the fallout is just as important as the initial move.
So, after a few minor moves on Thursday adding to the intrigue, who’s up next?
The biggest name appears to be Chris Kreider, the big-bodied, smooth-skating winger who’s been in Rangers colours for the past eight seasons. An unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, Kreider finds himself in nearly the exact same position as former teammates Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello — both important players with lengthy Rangers tenures under their belts, and both players who were traded away by New York in the final seasons of their deals when it appeared an extension wasn’t in the cards.
After breaking the bank to sign all-world winger Artemi Panarin — inking the Russian phenom to a monster seven-year, $81.5-million deal last summer — there’s a fair chance the Rangers won’t be able to afford the raise that’s certainly coming Kreider’s way. The 28-year-old carries a cap hit of just $4.625 million at the moment, but as a four-time 20-goal-scorer who approached 30 just last season, and who has enough size to see his game hold up when the league shifts into playoff mode, that price tag is sure to rise.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether the Rangers will deal Kreider or work towards an extension. But if they opt for the former, the list of suitors is sure to be lengthy, with Kreider’s low cap hit making him a prime deadline addition candidate for contenders around the game.