The New York Rangers needed to add some forwards to their roster, so they decided to bring Chris Kreider back from the Hartford Wolf Pack. The team's top prospect has played well during his stretch in the AHL, but he needs to show he can play hockey at the NHL level.
Does Alain Vigneault think that Kreider can have an impact on the current roster, or is management using this opportunity to improve his trade value?
The answer to both questions is yes, but there is reason to believe that the Blueshirts are seriously considering dealing their top prospect.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported, "The Rangers are looking for a top-six forward and the club is trying to deal Chris Kreider. He was once a top prospect, but has fallen out of favour with the organization."
While this rumor should be taken with a grain of salt, it certainly isn't unfounded based on how Kreider has progressed as a prospect. The 2009 first-round pick has shown moments of brilliance during his NHL career, but he has been unsuccessful at sustaining consistency.
There are moments when Kreider comes up big and scores a goal, and there are times that he makes boneheaded plays that end up costing his team a goal.
Because of this, the Rangers may be at their wits' end with Kreider, because they could be tired of waiting for him to become the type of player they need. Waiting is the word that best describes the Rangers attitude with Kreider, because they have given him multiple opportunities.
When Kreider failed to produce, he was demoted, and it led to more waiting on the part of the Blueshirts.
General manager Glen Sather waited for Kreider to leave Boston College, and he has waited for the Boxford, MA native to put his talents to use at the NHL level.
At the 2012 trade deadline, Sather refused to include Kreider in a trade for Rick Nash, and since that point the 6'3" winger's value as a player has plummeted.
If the Rangers include Kreider in a trade for Nash, the Rangers maybe contend for the Stanley Cup, and they likely don't deal away Marian Gaborik to replace the lost depth of Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky.
While these are hypotheticals, it is important to note that the Rangers have invested a lot in their top prospect, and he certainly hasn't panned out as planned.
As Anthony Rieber of Newsday put it,
Chris Kreider has gone from college hockey star to NHL playoff wunderkind to a potentially major disappointment to someone the Rangers are looking to for a spark. All in the span of two short years.
That certainly is an apt description of Kreider's NHL career to date in a nutshell, and here is what he has accomplished as a professional hockey player thus far.
|Chris Kreider's Career Statistics To Date|
While the sample size is small, these numbers are very poor for a prospect of Kreider's stature, and the most recent transaction suggests that the Rangers are trying to rebuild the stock of their top prospect.
In Rieber's same article, he notes that Vigneault has given Kreider a vote of confidence, and he is putting him in a position to succeed.
'I think right now with our team, with the players that we have out, that's what we need right now,' Vigneault said. 'We've got three of our top six forwards out and even though his training camp might have been more on the average side, that's behind us. He went to Hartford, he worked real hard and played some good minutes for them. Hopefully he can come in and do the same thing for us.'
Kreider practiced with the Rangers on Monday, and beat writer Andrew Gross tweeted out his position in the lineup.
Playing Kreider with Derek Stepan and Brad Richards makes a lot of sense, and there will be no excuses if he doesn't produce. Right now Richards has been the Blueshirts' top player, and Stepan has been the team's top center.
Kreider's tool set of speed and size makes him a natural fit to play with two playmakers like Richards and Stepan, and if he proves himself he will remain in the lineup.
During the 2011-12 NHL playoffs, Kreider illustrated he had the tools to be successful, but since that point he has not been the same player.
The Rangers' top prospect may be a slow learner, but his career with the Blueshirts is at a crossroads. Although he has the potential to be something great, the Rangers need results.
The roster could get a complete makeover at the end of the season because of the number of players without a contract, and Sather could decide to move Kreider for a player that can help the team win now.
It may not be right, but like anything else, the NHL is a results-oriented business. Vigneault is going to be with New York for the long haul, and if he doesn't think Kreider will fit with his vision, the 2009 first rounder could be packing his bags for Hartford or another NHL destination very soon.