TORONTO -- New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider was here to play a little table tennis, but the ball he is really keeping his eye on is his contact negotiation.
The 25-year-old has an arbitration hearing set for Friday, and although he was trying his best to concentrate on his participation at the fifth annual Smashfest Charity Ping-Pong Challenge, he was bothered by his employment situation.
"I'm ambivalent," Kreider said. "I was looking forward to coming to this event regardless, so it is nice to come to Toronto either way. It would have been nice to get something done and go home a little earlier on Friday."
Smashfest, hosted by Rangers center Dominic Moore, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support concussion and cancer research, according to the NHL Players' Association.
Kreider's 21 goals were fifth on the Rangers last season, and his 43 points were tied for fifth. He has 61 goals and 129 points in 248 regular-season games, and 20 goals and 33 points in 65 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Moore believes Kreider has the potential to be one of the best power forwards in the NHL.
"Chris is the most explosive skater in the history of the NHL, in my opinion," Moore said. "He's a game-changer because he can break out and do amazing things because he is a freak athlete. Guys like that don't grow on trees. He has earned his way into being a valuable player in the League."
Former teammate Derick Brassard, who was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Monday, also spoke glowingly about Kreider, a 6-foot-3, 226-pound native of Boxford, Mass.
Video: TBL@NYR: Kreider shows off speed, buries a backhand
"Chris is very physically gifted," Brassard said. "He's one of the strongest guys in the League who has really good speed and a really good shot. Guys like him are really hard to find. I don't know what will happen with his contract, but the Rangers are lucky to have a player like him."
Playing with Kreider is one thing; playing against him is quite another. Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad knows all about that. Ekblad is a strong, punishing defenseman whose job is to neutralize big opposing forwards like Kreider. The two have clashed in the past.
"He is fast and one of the best-built players in the NHL," Ekblad said. "He hits hard and he plays the game at a high pace. He is very difficult to play against."
Kreider avoided arbitration on his previous contract when he signed for two years and $4.95 million on July 23, 2014, when he had a hearing scheduled. He acknowledged his contract could once again be completed just before his hearing Friday, but if that does not happen, it's not something that will keep him awake all night.
"I have already been to this point once, on my last contract, and I didn't have much of a sense then if I'd avoid arbitration," Kreider said. "I don't have much of a sense now. There's nothing I can do except play a little pingpong and hang out with (former teammates) Cam Talbot and Derick Brassard."
The 19th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft is happy with what he has accomplished in his career but believes he can take his game to another level.
"Hopefully, I am just scratching the surface," Kreider said. "I am of the mindset that I am trying to get better every single day. I guess if you are not improving, there's no point of doing it."
Kreider assumes he will be with the Rangers next season and is looking forward to improving on their disappointing 2016 postseason, which ended with a five-game loss in the Eastern Conference First Round to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're not happy with the way the year ended," Kreider said. "It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, right? Obviously, only one team can win every year which means everybody else is not happy."
Regardless of what unfolds, Kreider said he has a firm grip on his future moving forward.
"I guess it's just part of the process," Kreider said. "You can't let the business side of things frustrate you."