The Rangers almost lost their top trade target far sooner than they wanted to and for all the wrong reasons.
Veteran winger Chris Kreider was forced to leave Saturday night’s win over the Detroit Red Wings early after taking a knee to the head from teammate Pavel Buchnevich.
Kreider was falling to the ice just below the Red Wings’ goal when a crossing Buchnevich caught his teammate with the knee while trying to avoid him.
The nasty blow immediately cast Kreider’s long-term future in doubt, which couldn’t have come at a worse time considering he’s their most attractive trade chip ahead of the league’s deadline on Feb. 24.
However, Rangers head coach David Quinn said after New York’s 1-0 win over the league-worst Red Wings that a major crisis was averted.
“It’s upper-body and we don’t think it’s anything long-term,” Quinn said. “Surprising after you look at it. It looked tough. But he’s already feeling a lot better.”
The 28-year-old has 18 goals and 17 assists through his first 50 games of the season — his last before hitting unrestricted free agency.
With the Rangers building a young core, Kreider and his impending contract don’t fit in the team’s future plans unless there was a guarantee he could be retained on a team-friendly deal.
However, a veteran talent that could provide secondary scoring for a contender in desperate need of offensive depth down the stretch. And that desperation could result in the Rangers coming away with draft picks to help the rebuild keep rolling.
At the latest, there are eight teams — most notably the Boston Bruins — interested in a potential trade for Kreider, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
A severe head injury would have kept Kreider sidelined for an extended period and likely would have held him off the ice through the trade deadline. That would run the risk of the Rangers getting nothing for Kreider at the deadline and seeing him walk away from the franchise for nothing.
Quinn’s comments suggest that Kreider’s injury is simply a day-to-day ordeal, which should allow the Rangers to breathe a sigh of relief as the trade deadline inches ever closer.