By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins and the rest of the league now have an idea what a deal for Rangers winger Chris Kreider could cost their team.
Highlighted on Thursday’s Insider Trading on TSN, Kreider has apparently drawn interest from eight teams, and Jeff Gorton’s Rangers have entered deadline season in search of a first-round pick, prospect, and potentially more in exchange for Kreider. Basically, they want something similar to last year’s deal involving then-Rangers center Kevin Hayes, which saw Hayes sent to Winnipeg in exchange for forward Brendan Lemieux, a first-round pick, and conditional fourth-round draft choice.
The reported ask is no surprise, as Kreider is certainly the top winger on the board following Taylor Hall’s move from New Jersey to Arizona earlier this season and is in the midst of an All-Star (reserve) season on Broadway.
A Ranger since jumping straight from Boston College to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 28-year-old Kreider has totaled 17 goals and 32 points through 48 games this year, and scored a career-best 28 goals last year. And at 6-foot-3 and almost 220 pounds, Kreider is the kind of talent that thrives as both a skillful and grimy goal scorer, and has established some solid playoff success in his career, with 23 goals and 37 points in 77 career postseason tilts.
The Boxford, Mass. native is also in the final year of his current contract, which comes with a $4.625 million cap hit, and will certainly cash in as one of the top unrestricted free agents this July.
So, the market is there. And it’s expected to include the Bruins.
It had been previously reported that the B’s believe they have a deal for Kings winger Tyler Toffoli ‘in their hip pocket’ when they’re ready, but that they’re continuing to scour the market for potentially bigger gets. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty, meanwhile, has identified Kreider as Boston’s top target ahead of this year’s deadline. Connecting the dots ain’t hard.
But would the B’s pull the trigger on such an asking price?
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has moved a first-round pick for a deadline rental once before since becoming the B’s general manager back in 2015, as Sweeney parted with a first-round pick to acquire Rick Nash from the Rangers in 2018. Doing it with the Rangers seems worth mentioning, too, as Sweeney and Gorton seem to have a good trade rapport with one another, with the B’s and Blueshirts successfully agreeing to three different trades since 2018.
Making a deal for Kreider work goes beyond the first-round pick, however, and that’s where things may get tricky.
Tight against the cap, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins being able to swing a deal for Kreider without subtracting from their NHL roster or getting the Rangers to eat half of Kreider’s remaining cap hit. Given the fact that he’s a rental, the Rangers may not object to eating that money, but it could also drive up the cost of Kreider (be it another pick or a prospect).
And finding the right piece to move off their roster to move may be a difficult decision for the Bruins, too.
If we want to use the 2019 Hayes trade as a legitimate apples-to-apples comparison, the Jets parted with Lemieux to acquire Hayes. Lemieux, to that point, had scored 10 goals and two assists in 53 NHL games. Danton Heinen, often the whipping boy or throw-in of many B’s fans, is more accomplished than Lemieux, so you probably should consider a Heinen and a first package an overpay. So perhaps that’s when Anders Bjork (eight goals and 15 points in 43 games this year) enters the mix, but the Bruins have spent multiple years waiting for this version of Bjork to arrive, and bailing now may not be in their best interest. In essence, there’s really no direct B’s comparison to Lemieux if we’re building a similar package for Kreider.
But that’s all part of Sweeney and Co.’s homework between now and Feb. 24, and with more than a few questions still facing the true championship-level ceiling of a Boston squad vying for another shot at the Stanley Cup.