Chris Kreider is the Rangers 1st round draft insurance policy
This summer the Rangers should be going into the NHL draft with a top 10 pick. Ideally they would love to win the lottery and pick 1st overall, or in the top 4 for sure. Should they fail to be in that mix, the Rangers do have an insurance piece to play.
On the Rangers Radar
The Rangers are believed to be looking to add an elite forward through the draft. This summer there appears to be 4 kids that fit the bill. Here they are based on Sportnet’s March Rankings:
1. Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga), 6-foot-2, 194 pounds: Patrik Laine and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have paved the way with a similar career path. There is some thought Kakko could play centre, and if the team picking first believes that, he may very well bypass Hughes.
2. Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP, 5-foot-10, 168 pounds: If — and this is a big IF — he is a consolation prize, it will be like winning the lottery.
3. Vasily Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (VHL), 6-foot-1, 190 pounds:One scout deemed him a “special player.” Some teams will be out on him for fear he won’t come to North America or remain here, but buyer beware, he has star potential.
4. Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), 6-foot-3, 181 pounds:Elite skating ability with size, while playing a premium position as a right shot — Cozens checks a lot of boxes. The question is if he’s a true centre, or better suited to play the wing?
We know that Dylan Cozens is someone the Rangers are keenly interested in and could be the player they shoot for if they don’t win the lottery. Of course if they don’t end up in the top 5, they made need to trade into that position to get him.
The Insurance Policy
Chris Kreider will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. According to Larry Brooks, his next contract could be around 6 years at 6.5M per season. The Rangers may factor that into their decision if they have a chance to move up in the draft.
As the standings currently sit, Ottawa, LA, Detroit, NJ, and Anaheim hold those 5 spots, with Colorado holding Ottawa’s selection. If the Rangers were to finish between 6th and 10th and other teams move up like Buffalo or Edmonton, a deal could be made. Trading into the top 3 is unlikely, and dealing with NJ is also highly improbable.
Packaging Kreider with their 1st round selection to a team like Buffalo or Edmonton to move up into 4th of 5th and drafting a Dylan Cozens or Vasily Podkolzin is not out of the question.
The ideal scenario would be to win the draft lottery and have Tampa win the Cup to grab their 1st round selection as well. In that situation the Rangers could also use Kreider and that pick to move up to the middle of the draft as well.
Ultimately, the Rangers will be pleased to pick wherever they finish and retain Kreider for next season. They could then work out a deal to keep him or move him at the deadline for a 2020 1st round selection in a very deep draft.