ST. LOUIS — Chris Kreider’s future is tied intrinsically to the Rangers’.
Not just because that’s the name he will wear on the front of his jersey as the team’s lone representative at this weekend’s All-Star Game, but because in a contract year, and with trade rumors swirling, their continued success might mean a little more time with the only NHL team he’s ever known. So he’s doing what he believes is best: Absolutely not thinking about it.
“You might not believe it but there’s no challenge,” he said about balancing his uncertain contract situation and the Rangers’ uncertain season. “I’m just worried about winning a lot of hockey games. Winning solves a lot of problems. It’s the old adage and probably a little cliché, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”
The Rangers (23-21-4, 50 points) have until the Feb. 24 trade deadline to decide whether to keep Kreider or trade their most marketable talent. Given that they’re 11 points out of the last playoff spot, Kreider, who was drafted in 2009, seems likely to be departing.
When he was asked about it during Thursday’s media day — which he was, over and over — his answer remained the same: “It’s not something I’ve thought about.”
He also said, “I’m a Ranger until I’m not a Ranger anymore.”
Either way, this weekend will be quite the milestone. It’s the 28-year-old’s first All-Star Game and the chance to live a lifelong dream. He was told he was going only after Tuesday night’s game, he said, as a replacement for Artemi Panarin, who has an upper-body injury.
“It’s an incredible experience . . . a dream come true in a lot of ways,” Kreider said. “It’s an honor to be here and represent the New York Rangers.”
Possibly for one of the final times in his career.