GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Illness kept Chris Kreider from attending practice on Monday.
But Kreider, the biggest name of the players who were expected to be moved by Monday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline, should be around the next time the Rangers practice and for many more practices after that. He and the Rangers agreed on a seven-year contract that will pay the 28-year-old left wing a reported $45.5 million.
“We signed Chris and kept him as a Ranger,’’ general manager Jeff Gorton said. “Having him was important to us. We looked at everything, and obviously, we’re well aware of what our team’s doing and we’re happy with how we’re playing, and we’re going to try and continue that. But we’re looking big picture also.’’
Gorton did make one trade before the 3 p.m. deadline, sending defenseman Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round pick in this summer’s NHL Draft.
“Trading Brady Skjei is difficult,’’ Gorton said. “He’s a special guy, he’s a really good person, he’s a good player — he’s been a good Ranger. We do nothing but wish him the best. It’s just a move that we felt we had to make.’’
Part of the reason the Rangers felt they had to trade Skjei was to clear space under the salary cap next season, in part to help accommodate the signing of Kreider, whose contract carries an annual average value of $6.5 million. Skjei, who had been playing on the Rangers’ top defense pair, is under contract for four seasons beyond this one at an average annual value of $5.25 million.
Gorton said acquiring a first-round pick in what the organization’s scouts consider to be a deep draft was a good return for Skjei, who scored a goal in the Rangers’ 5-2 road win over Carolina on Friday and who has eight goals and 15 assists in 60 games.
The Rangers’ depth on defense — with prospects Libor Hajek and Yegor Rykov playing at Hartford and 2018 first-round picks K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist potentially ready to sign with the club for next season — made the move possible.
The Hurricanes have two first-round picks, their own and Toronto’s, which they acquired last summer in a deal in which Carolina took Patrick Marleau from the Maple Leafs in order to allow the Leafs to become salary cap- compliant. That pick is top 10-protected, meaning if it is in the top 10, the Leafs will keep it and the Hurricanes will get the pick in the 2021 draft.
The Rangers are getting a pick in 2020 from the Hurricanes, though. If Carolina has two picks, the Rangers will get the later of the two. If the Hurricanes have one pick, the Rangers will get it.
Kreider, 28, who would have been an unrestricted free agent if the Rangers hadn’t signed him, has 24 goals and 21 assists in 60 games. He and his linemates, center Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich (who missed practice after a car accident Sunday) have been one of the NHL’s hottest lines.
Gorton said resolving the situation with Kreider was priority No. 1 for the Rangers. All other possibilities they were considering came after that.
“It’s obvious on the ice what he brings — on and off the ice — with our team,’’ Gorton said when asked why it was a priority to get Kreider signed. “When you add it all up, it’s a player that we’ve had in the organization for a long time, we’ve watched the strides he’s been making, and when you weigh all the options — having him leave versus keeping him — it became more evident that we wanted to keep him.’’
Notes & quotes: Forwards Brett Howden and Julien Gauthier were assigned to AHL Hartford and immediately recalled in a paper transaction that allows them to be eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs for Hartford. The players needed to be on the Hartford roster at the 3 p.m. trade deadline.