STAMFORD, Conn. — Chris Kreider said the New York Rangers should be a more difficult team to play against this season following their offseason additions.
The Rangers not only added players with grit, but plenty of Stanley Cup Playoff experience in forwards Ryan Reaves, Barclay Goodrow and Sammy Blais, and defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tinordi.
“I see guys who compete hard, guys who play north and want to get to the inside,” Kreider said at the Smashfest Charity Ping-Pong Challenge on Thursday. “They’ve played within a defined role and know how they can help a team win. When we bring in guys with that level of experience, I think that is incredibly valuable. Understanding the little things, understanding what a winning culture looks like.
“Then, with the guys that are currently here, molding the group that we have to find that place, find that identity so we can win hockey games and ultimately make the playoffs.”
Kreider is the longest-tenured player on the Rangers. The 30-year-old has played in 573 NHL games in the regular season and 80 Stanley Cup Playoff games over nine seasons, all with New York.
The Rangers finished fifth in MassMutual East Division last season and did not qualify for the playoffs, failing to reach the first round a fourth straight season.
“Going into each season, regardless of what people want to call the broader plan, we’re worried about winning the next game, winning the next series, eventually punching our ticket plan into the playoffs and giving ourselves a chance to win a Stanley Cup,” Kreider said.
“Regardless of what people want to call it, whatever position people may think our roster is going into the year, our goal is always the same.”
The Rangers fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on May 5 and promoted Chris Drury to president and GM. Coach David Quinn was fired seven days later and replaced by Gerard Gallant on June 16.
Reaves was acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft on July 29, and agreed to a one-year contract extension through next season. He scored five points (one goal, four assists) and had 27 penalty minutes in 37 games for Vegas last season. Reaves has 937 penalty minutes in 686 NHL games and 84 games of playoff experience
“Everybody in the League knows [Reaves’] name,” Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller said while taking part in Da Beauty League on Aug. 9. “I think it’s a great addition for us, add some grit up front. I’ve been talking to him a little bit and I’m looking forward to meeting him in person and get going with him.”
Goodrow, acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 17, agreed to a six-year contract five days later after scoring 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 55 games last season and winning a second straight Stanley Cup with the Lightning. Blais, acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues for forward Pavel Buchnevich on July 23, scored 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 36 regular-season games last season and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019.
Nemeth and Tinordi each signed with the Rangers as a free agent July 28. Nemeth has 182 penalty minutes in 366 NHL games and 28 games of playoff experience; Tinordi has 123 penalty minutes in 102 NHL games and had 56 hits in 21 games with the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators last season.
“I think the powers that be with the Rangers, Drury and his staff, want to mold the team into a certain identity,” NHL analyst and former Rangers forward Dominic Moore said. “I think it’s one thing to add toughness, but at the end of the day, you’re adding toughness for a reason … to win hockey games. So, time will tell whether that translates into winning hockey games.”
Said Kreider, “I think there’s a good energy around the group, like there always is going into the year. The group chats have been buzzing and the guys are talking and excited, so it’ll be good. We’ve got some new faces, we got some familiar faces … that’s the nature of pro hockey. But guys are excited.”
Drury said he hopes the Rangers will name a captain prior to the start of the season, something they haven’t had since trading Ryan McDonagh to the Lightning on Feb. 26, 2018. Kreider could be on the short list of players to fill that role.
“He does everything right,” Kreider’s former teammate and unrestricted free agent forward Brian Boyle said. “I mean, I saw him come in as a little puppy dog out of Boston College (in 2012-13). I remember being that kid, myself. The effect he had right away was obvious and he was a shot in the arm for us. He’s been through everything on that team and now he’s the old guard, even though he’s not old. He’s still got wheels, he’s a high-character person, a smart individual, and knows what it takes to win.
“I’ve been friends with him for a long time, so I’d love to see that.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this report