February 16, 2020 | 8:24pm
So listen, there is a fairly decent chance that Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to the Bruins marked Chris Kreider’s final appearance at the Garden as a Ranger.
While contract talks are ongoing between management and the pending free-agent winger’s camp, it’s probably about 50-50 that Kreider and the Blueshirts will agree to a long-term contract over the next week in which the team plays Wednesday in Chicago, Friday in Carolina and Saturday at home against the Sharks, two days prior to the Feb. 24 deadline.
If Kreider’s situation remains unresolved by the 22nd, he would be an almost certain Bubble Wrap scratch for the match against San Jose. So if you did not see Chris in this one against the B’s, you may not get another chance to see him wear that No. 20.
“It is not affecting my focus or my play,” Kreider, held off the scoresheet but who recorded four shots on eight attempts in 20:21, told The Post. “It has not been a distraction. That’s why I have an agent.”
The agent is named Matt Keator. He and general manager Jeff Gorton have been conducting a dialogue for about a week. It is, however, not clear whether the parties are making progress toward an agreement on a long-term deal that would keep Kreider in New York. It is not clear whether offers and counteroffers have been exchanged or whether the sides are talking concepts.
The Rangers would like to keep Kreider here, on Mika Zibanejad’s left side. The priority is not to turn one of their most important players into a prospect and a late first-round draft pick. But that doesn’t mean that Gorton is likely to extend an offer of seven years to Kreider, who will turn 29 on April 30. It is believed that the Blueshirts would be willing to go six years, but perhaps not at as much as $7 million per.
Now, Kreider will almost certainly be able to earn more on his next deal if he does hit the July 1 open market. Anders Lee, 29 upon becoming a free agent last year, got $49 million over seven years to remain an Islander. The question is whether Kreider will receive offers from teams with a chance to compete for a championship and/or located in cities in which he wants to live the next seven years of his life.
So, if the Rangers come in at six years for $6.85 million per — my numbers — would that be enough for Kreider, who first suited up for the Blueshirts in Game 3 of the first round of the 2012 playoffs and is the club’s third senior member behind Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal?
Would Kreider take what would amount to a hometown discount to play in New York when management sure didn’t demand that either Artemi Panarin or Jacob Trouba make a concession upon joining the organization last summer?
Would it be principal or principle if Kreider rejects a six-year offer of just under $42 million? But first, the Rangers would have to make that offer. Plus, there will be negotiating over no-move and no-trade clauses. Remember, pending free agent Ryan Callahan was traded to Tampa Bay at the 2014 deadline because the captain would not sign an extension without the no-move clause he could not get from then-general manager Glen Sather.
If Kreider were to accept less to stay on Broadway, surely he would require a guarantee that he would not be playing in some other burg three or four years from now. The player will need that type of protection. It is unclear whether he would be able to get it from management.
Kreider’s attributes are apparent to everyone. That includes the people in the Rangers’ front office and the scads of scouts who have been flocking to the Garden the past couple of weeks. His presence makes the Rangers a far more formidable team and will for years. He is a legit top-line power wing who will score between 24 and 30 goals and be a force in the playoffs.
One of the scouts in the building Sunday was Rick Nash, who is special assistant to Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen. The Jackets could sure use Kreider on the left side of the first line. They could use him on the power play. They could a reunion between Kreider and his first pro coach, John Tortorella. Let’s just say there’d be no adjustment period.
And Columbus has more to offer than just the typical pick-and-prospect package. Indeed, the Jackets have Josh Anderson, the 25-year-old power winger who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since Dec. 14 and who is a pending RFA a year away from unrestricted free agency.
If the Rangers cannot sign Kreider/if Kreider won’t sign with the Rangers, then at least the 6-foot-3, physically inclined Anderson represents a reasonable facsimile. That would be a place to start if this is the end for Kreider.