Chris Kreider is expected to start the season with the New York Rangers, though the left wing's long-term future remains unclear and trade speculation continues entering the final year of his four-year contract.
"I totally expect him to be in camp," Rangers president John Davidson said Thursday. "It's hard to make promises. Things change, but Chris is a valued member of the New York Rangers and I look forward to him having a great camp and a great run with us.
"He's got one year left, and that should be a whole lot of importance to him to come in and have a great camp and a great year, and we'll just see where it all goes."
Kreider, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020, tied his NHL career high with 28 goals last season, and his 52 points were one fewer than his best.
The 28-year-old has been the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason, particularly after the Rangers signed left wing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract ($11.6 million average annual value) on July 1. They also signed defenseman Jacob Trouba to a seven-year, $56 million contract ($8 million AAV) after acquiring him in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on June 17.
Those contracts, plus signing forward Pavel Buchnevich to a two-year, $6.5 million contract ($3.25 million AAV), put the Rangers in a bind with regard to the $81.5 million NHL salary cap, making it questionable that they were going to be able to keep Kreider, whose contract carries a $4.625 million cap charge.
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New York saved almost $5.2 million against the salary cap by buying out the final two years of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's contract on Aug. 1. It was the relief the Rangers needed to put off a decision on Kreider's future until closer to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline.
But it's still not clear if the Rangers intend to, or want to, sign Kreider to a new contract, which is why he remains the subject of trade speculation.
"We'll deal with that," general manager Jeff Gorton said. "We'll continue to talk to Chris and see what's next for him, but we'll start with training camp, get him going on the right path. Hopefully he's helping us win games, and then we'll figure it out."
Gorton and Davidson wouldn't rule out trading Kreider during the season even if New York is in the race to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There remains a chance he will be traded before the season if the right deal comes along.
The executives each said Kreider will be an essential part of the Rangers as a top-six forward and as a guide to help rookie forwards Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov get acclimated to the NHL.
"I think that can go a long ways because he's been there, he's done that," Gorton said. "He's a good player. He's obviously a top-six forward and he's somebody that when he's producing takes the edge off young players too. There's not so much pressure to produce if you have other guys leading the way. For a lot of reasons, Chris is an important player."