Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers avoided arbitration Friday and came to terms on a four-year, $18.5 million deal. The deal is closer to Kreider’s asking price than it is to what the Rangers were seeking in arbitration.
The Washington Capitals and Marcus Johansson avoided arbitration Tuesday by making a compromise. Johansson wanted $5.25 million per season, the Capitals wanted to pay $3.85 million and the two sides met almost exactly in the middle — $4.583 million — to get a deal done and avoid arbitration. The same can’t be said for Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers, but it turns out the deal isn’t too bad for either side.
The Rangers announced Friday that they’ve inked Kreider, 25, to a new deal, which is a four-year, $18.5-million deal that will pay the 6-foot-3, 226-pound winger $4.625 million per season, according to Aaron Ward.
The deal is an absolute win for Kreider, who was entering arbitration seeking $4.75 million with the Rangers countering with $3.2 million. And while it seems like there was no compromise on Kreider’s part, it’s hard to blame him for not wanting to take anything less after the deal Johansson received from the Capitals.
Over the past three seasons, Johansson and Kreider have incredibly similar totals. Johansson has scored 45 goals and 137 points in 236 games since the start of the 2013-14 campaign, good for .58 points per game. Meanwhile, Kreider has notched 59 goals and 126 points in 225 games, which gives him .56 points per game. Kreider has 18 power play goals to Johansson’s 15, but Johansson has 50 power play points to Kreider’s 28.
None of that is to mention the underlying numbers, though, and advanced statistics suggest that Kreider has a bigger 5-on-5 impact for the Rangers than Johansson does for the Capitals.
They boast similar zone starts, yet Kreider has a 51.6 percent shot attempts for percentage to Johansson’s 50.2. Relative to teammates, Kreider’s driving play much better than Johansson, too. And when it comes to scoring, Kreider’s 5-on-5 on-ice goals for percentage is 62.6 percent, good for the fifth-best percentage in the NHL of players to play 2,000 even strength minutes since the start of the 2013-14 season. Johansson ranks 265th of 431 skaters at 49.3 percent.
So while the Rangers did come closer to Kreider’s asking price, that’s as much a result of Johansson’s deal as it is Kreider’s unwillingness to bend. And even without bending on the price, it’s not a bad deal considering Kreider has been a consistent 20-goal, 40-point scorer in the past two seasons and he could be coming into his own as he enters his prime. Realistically, there’s a 30-goal season and a couple 25-plus years in Kreider.
There’s some other plusses to the deal for the Rangers, too. New York locked Kreider up for cheaper and on a shorter term than the Devils signed Kyle Palmieri earlier this summer, and the Rangers have Kreider in the same price range as some of his closest comparables. In addition, the four-year term eats two years of potential unrestricted free agency for Kreider. That’s important given that someone who possess Kreider’s mix of speed, size and skill would likely be hard — and expensive — to keep were he to hit the UFA market.
Signing Kreider doesn’t mark the end of what should continue to be a busy off-season for the Rangers, though. GM Jeff Gorton still has to get a deal done for restricted free agent Kevin Hayes, and the Rangers could potentially fill a hole on the blueline. But having the Kreider signing out of the way — and getting it done without going to arbitration — means Gorton can look ahead with arguably his most important free agent locked up.
UPDATE: The Rangers have avoided arbitration with Kevin Hayes, too. It was announced Friday afternoon that Hayes, 24, has signed a two-year deal with the Blueshirts. According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, Hayes’ contract will pay him $5.2 million — $2.6 million per season.
This past season, Hayes scored 14 goals and 36 points in 79 games. Originally drafted 24th overall in 2010 by the Chicago Blackhawks, Hayes signed with the Rangers as a free agent out of Boston College. He scored 17 goals and 45 points as a rookie in 2014-15.
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