GREENBURGH, N.Y. — One of the topics discussed during the Rangers’ breakup day Sunday at the MSG Training Center was the future of Chris Kreider. And when the day was over, the left wing’s status was the same as when it began:
“That’s not up to me, right? I think you know me pretty well by now. I’m pretty worried about the day-to-day stuff and trying not to let the big-picture stuff affect [me],” Kreider said. “I’m trying not to think about it. It’s one of those things we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Kreider is entering the final year of a four-year, $18.5 million contract and theoretically could be signed to an extension or traded for prospects or draft picks that could accelerate the franchise’s attempt to become a playoff contender.
Kreider tied a career high with 28 goals in 79 games this season and his 52 points were one off his best, set in 2016-17. He played his best hockey in December and January while on the top line with center Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello, who was dealt to the Stars at the trade deadline.
General manager Jeff Gorton and coach David Quinn pointed to the hamstring injury Kreider suffered after the trade deadline as a reason his output slowed in the second half. Quinn said Kreider played through the injury before sitting out the losses to Pittsburgh and Boston on March 25 and 27, along with the win over the Blues on March 29, before returning for the final six games of the season.
“He had a great first half. He was on pace for 35, maybe 40 goals at one time,” Gorton said. “[In the last 10 weeks of the season], he was hurt and wasn’t as effective, and [that] was obvious. I think for the most part a really encouraging season from him. It’s hard to score goals in this league, and he scored 28 of them, so I think he’s been pretty consistent. And it looked like he was going to have a career year.”
Kreider had 23 goals and 15 assists between Oct. 4 and Jan. 31 but was only 5-9-14 in the final 32 games.
Gorton, who has traded Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Zuccarello in the season-and-a-half since the organization formally announced its intention to rebuild, does not seem inclined to make an impetuous determination about Kreider.
“We have a lot of decisions to make there,” Gorton said. “Like I said, Chris is a goal-scorer, and they’re hard to find. We’ll figure out what’s the appropriate way to go here in the coming weeks. We have a long time before we have to make that decision.”