As we draw nearer to the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 24, the list of names that will be available is becoming clearer. So today we’re going to look at five of the top players available, their strengths, their weaknesses, and what they’re worth on the market.
Let’s get right to it.
Likely the hottest name on the rental market this season, Kreider has been in the rumour mills for a few years now with the Rangers in rebuild mode, but this season with an expiring contract and an extremely digestible cap hit, it’s unlikely the Rangers decide to keep the hulking speedster. Kreider has taken a slight step back this year in a couple areas, but he’s still a very good player.
Any team looking to acquire Kreider is going to be looking for specific attributes on top of just filling a hole in their top-six forward group. Like I mentioned in a recent Truth by Numbers column, Kreider has seen his net front presence at even strength drop a bit, but he’s still in the top 25 per cent of forwards in inner slot shots, and the top five per cent in slot pass receptions, so he’s no stranger to going to dangerous areas.
His impact in tight is even stronger on the powerplay, where he ranks in the top five per cent in inner slot shots, offensive zone rebound recoveries and deflections on net. He also takes a whopping 89.6 per cent of his powerplay shots from the slot. Despite rarely if ever playing with Artemi Panarin, his on-ice differentials remain pretty strong at even strength aside from the inner slot on the defensive side where wingers don’t have a huge impact. So he’s a powerplay force and a positive even strength performer on top of it.
While Kreider is a monster in front of the net, if a team is looking for other assets on the powerplay, they may want to look elsewhere. Gaining the offensive zone on the powerplay is a huge weakness — he ranks in the bottom 10 per cent of all forwards — and the same goes for playmaking with the man advantage both in slot passes and in passes that create one-timers.
To be fair, it’s tough to make many great passes when your primary role is the net front, but Kreider struggles to complete passes for one-timers at even strength as well. A high-end playmaker he isn’t, but a net front scorer with a unique blend of size and speed has tons of value.
That aforementioned unique blend makes Kreider a special commodity that should generate a lot of interest. Despite being a pure rental, I’d be shocked he didn’t garner at least a second-round pick and a good prospect. It might not be likely, but a first-round pick isn’t out of the question.