Is Kevin Klein Leaving the Rangers?

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According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein may be retiring during this offseason. The veteran Rangers defenseman was a bit of a disappointment this season, with his play dropping significantly. Klein only made it into 60 regular season games and was a healthy scratch for eleven of the team’s twelve postseason matches. After being expected to be in the Rangers “top four” entering the 2016-17 campaign, Klein looked lost from his first time on the ice back in October.

Why Now?

As noted by Brooks, Klein had been bothered by a nagging back issue, which took him off the ice for 16 games during the stretch run of the regular season. One has to think that his back would influence his next move, possibly one that would see Klein head to play in Europe. The European leagues all have lighter schedules, with an average of 55 games during the regular season.

In addition to this, there is the fact that Klein’s status with the Rangers was very much uncertain. While he is most probably going to be left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft, he is not the asset that Vegas will be looking to take. He will be in the final year of his contract, earning $2.75 million next season. Even if Klein were to remain with the Blueshirts through next year, he’d likely be sent to free agency at season’s end.

What’s next?

What does all of this mean for Jeff Gorton and the Blueshirts? If Klein is to retire from the NHL, the Rangers would gain his $2.9 million on the cap to spend on free agents like Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith. In addition, should Klein exit Broadway, the Rangers would be able to give one of their prospects a good look during training camp. And with Sean Day, Ryan Graves and John Gilmour all waiting in the wings, this could be the opportunity for one of them to make the jump into the NHL.

Klein’s style of play is one that is slowly fading from today’s NHL. Defensemen today are expected to be very good in their own zone, plus quick skating puck movers with offensive abilities, à la Nashville’s Roman Josi or Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. Klein came to the Rangers as a stay-at-home defender who provided a surprising offensive punch from the blue line. But his defensive play deteriorated, and he was usually the first player looking to break up the ice, even with the puck still in his own zone.

All signs seem to be pointing to Klein’s time on Broadway coming to an end. And if he is to retire, it could give the Blueshirts the necessary wiggle room to make a splash this offseason.

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