The Rangers landed the biggest prize of NHL Deadline Day and they didn't have to leave their own room to do it.
Chris Kreider, drafted by the Rangers and a Ranger for eight seasons, is staying right in the Blueshirt he belongs in -- the winger and the club came together on a contract on Monday that will keep Kreider on Broadway for the next seven years to come. It is a move that Rangers President John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton described as in keeping with both their short-range goal of continuing their push as one of the League's hottest teams, and more importantly with their long-term objectives, locking down one of the sport's elite power forwards, and a highly respected veteran in their own dressing room, as an integral part of their blueprint to build a Stanley Cup contender.
But on Monday morning, at least, some of the Rangers felt simply as though their team's front office had made a big splash on Deadline Day.
"It does kind of feel like we picked someone up," said Ryan Lindgren, "and a dominant player, too."
"When you look at what he's doing, his emergence, we feel like he's still getting better," Gorton said on Monday evening. "The fact that his size, his skating and scoring ability, his combination he has with Mika, his power-play ability -- when you add it all up, it's a player that we've had in our organization for a long time and we've watched the strides he's been making.
"Keeping him was something we felt was important for our organization."
Kreider is a five-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL but this year is comfortably on pace to set new career marks across the board. He has 24 goals and 45 points through 60 games -- but has been a point-per-game player for the last 32 of those, with 18 goals and 32 points, during which time his partnership with longtime linemates Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich has dominated games at times for a peaking Rangers team.
If Kreider plays in all 21 of the Rangers' remaining games this season, he will finish the year ranked 25th all-time in games played by a Rangers skater -- he already is 24th all-time in goals, with 157.
"He's a unique player, very hard to replace. I think it's definitely the right decision to lock him up," said Henrik Lundqvist, who has had Kreider as a teammate since the winger came bursting onto Broadway during the 2012 Playoffs. "He's been having a great year. I think he's developing into an even better player now, more consistent and the type of leader you need in the locker room. That's definitely good news for everyone."
The news, as it happens, was received with elation in all corners of the Rangers' room. And whether or not Davidson and Gorton -- or Kreider himself -- intended for the rest of the roster to hear any kind of message, one was received loud and clear anyway.
"It gives us a little bit of wings behind our back that Chris believes in this team -- he's a huge part of it, everybody loves him," said Alexandar Georgiev. "Everybody's super excited. He's big every game for us."
"We're ecstatic about it," said Lindgren, the rookie defenseman who, coincidentally, happened to be over to Kreider's house for Sunday dinner, just as the team and his agent, Matt Keator, were getting closer on terms. The rookie said he knew Kreider was getting phone calls about it, "but I didn't want to pry too much."
"But you can just tell how badly he wanted to stay here and play for New York, and I couldn't be happier for him," Lindgren said. "The guys are thrilled. He's a huge part of the team and a leader and a guy that a lot of us look up to.
"And that definitely sends a message that we want to make the playoffs, and I think keeping him shows that they think we can, too."
"They" being Gorton and Davidson, who saw Kreider's veteran presence and renowned preparation habits as important factors in making the winger a part of this young team's future. "We're young and getting younger," Davidson said. "And you need people that can lead the way."
Since the end of January these Rangers have played their way into the thick of the playoff race, 7-1 over their last eight games and 10-3 since the All-Star break -- Kreider has 12 points in those 10 wins, and the last three goals he has scored have been game-winners. Both Gorton and Davidson stressed their own obligation to keep their eyes on the horizon, that while these Rangers deserve a chance to see their playoff push through to its conclusion, it could not be at the detriment of the plans and the path they have laid out.
At the same time, this postseason push will do nothing, they said, but advance their young team's progress down that path.
"We'd love to keep on winning," Davidson said. "We want to go through the experience of a chase down the stretch for the playoffs -- it's very important, for young people in particular, but the veteran players too. And if we get there, fantastic; if we don't, it will still be a good experience, and we'll just keep moving along as we're trying to build this into something."
"He's been in the League for so long and been such a good player, and he's so great to everyone," Lindgren said of Kreider. "The younger guys, we all look up to him and talk to him and ask for advice, and he's just such a great teammate and a great guy. You can't undervalue how impactful he's been for the younger guys and everything he does for this entire team."