Powerfully Built 25-Year-Old Winger Is Just Starting To Come Into His Own And Has 30-Goal, 70-Point Potential

By Sean Hartnett
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It is a terrific deal for both sides.

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The Rangers and Chris Kreider avoided arbitration on Friday morning by agreeing to a four-year, $18.5 million contract.

At $4.625 million in annual-average value, the Rangers have signed one of their most productive forwards to an affordable rate for a decent amount of time. With each year that passes, the deal will look better for the Blueshirts, given Kreider’s projected growth. He’s only 25 and is getting close to being the kind of winger who can rise to a 30-goal, 60-point level.

Kreider, who had a career high-tying 21 goals this past season, has all the tools to become dominant. He possesses a quick stride and can play the power forward’s game. He’s simply a handful for opposing goalies to deal with when he crashes the net.

“When he plays like that, with his speed, it’s hard to stop that guy,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist once said of the rugged forward. “I see it in practice every day, coming down the wing and he’s big and strong — and so fast. It’s tough for a defender. He has a great shot as well.”

All Kreider needs is a little more consistency to be the “go-to guy” head coach Alain Vigneault desires. It’s not for a lack of effort, however. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound winger is a workhorse in the gym and on the practice ice.

“He brings a lot of different aspects to our team. He works hard every day. He really pushes the group,” former teammate Keith Yandle said of Kreider last December.

Some players are late bloomers and don’t find consistency until their mid-20s. For example, Martin St. Louis recorded his first 70-point season at the age of 27. It wouldn’t be surprising if Kreider becomes a 65-to-70-point player during the course of his new deal.

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For Kreider, he gets the security of a four-year deal near his asking price. He had requested $4.75 million in arbitration, while the Rangers countered with $3.2 million. The Boxford, Massachusetts native earned an average of $2.475 million per season over the course of his previous contract.

According to hockey analyst Aaron Ward, the contract contains an 11-team no-trade clause in the final two years of the deal.

Expectations have always been high for Kreider and he is eager to meet them.

“In the offseason, I focus on painting the corners, detailed-oriented stuff, not leaving any stone unturned,” Kreider told WFAN.com last September. “I can honestly say that I try to take advantage of every possible resource and people from my experience that I’ve heard are the best at what they do. With preparation comes confidence. Hopefully, it pays off.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to see him take a big leap forward next season. He’s very close to becoming one of the Blueshirts’ lead dogs.

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Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey