The New York Rangers’ defenseman had a tough season, ending up as a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Did this fact, his injury history and small shot in the NHL lead him to this conclusion?
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, veteran defenseman Kevin Klein is thinking about his future in the NHL. Sources state that Klein is looking at retiring from the NHL and playing in Europe. However, a final decision hasn’t been made just yet. There are a few reasons behind his possible retirement.
Klein had a bad 2016-2017 season. He only featured in 60 regular season games and one playoff match. Even when he did play, he was a liability.
His game simply wasn’t the same as it had been in year’s past. The righty couldn’t seem to get the puck out of the defensive end, at times. At the other end, his scoring touch from the 2015-2016 season dried up.
With this in mind, the Rangers don’t seem apt to play him next season either. General Manager Jeff Gorton is starting his revamp of the Rangers’ defense corps by signing a few college and a KHL free agent, and the youth movement does not include Klein. Based on his injury history, it seems unlikely that he would be picked up by another team.
This past season, Klein sat out a fair few games out dealing with a nagging lower back injury. While this could have had an impact on his play when he was on the ice, it kept him off the ice altogether for games at a time. Even worse, this past season has not been his only injury shortened one.
Kevin Klein last played a full NHL season…. well, never. He played all but one game three times, but other than those seasons, he has missed significant time. His most recent years show a dangerous trend.
Klein has not played 70 games in one season since the 2013-2014 season. Even when he was playing well, he wasn’t playing all the time. Klein’s injury history and recent poor play leaves him with few NHL options left.
Left with nowhere to go
If he doesn’t have a spot on the Rangers, Klein really doesn’t have anywhere to go. The Rangers wouldn’t waste the cap space to buy out the last year of his contract. And, if he gets exposed in the expansion draft, all signs point to Vegas not picking him.
At that point, Klein has a few options if he still wants to play. He could request a trade. Gorton would be sure to do his due diligence, but what team would trade for a banged up liability signed at $2.9 million against the cap?
Klein could also see out the final year of his deal. If he does that, he’ll end up in one of two places. He would end up watching the season from the press box or toiling away in the AHL. Klein looks to be exercising his third and final option.
Klein could always retire from the NHL and continue his career overseas. Plenty of players have done so before, so this isn’t unheard of. This appears to be his path of choice.
What does this mean for the Rangers?
As sad as it is to say, Klein retiring could be a blessing for the Rangers. His retirement would do a few things for the team.
Instead of having a roster spot being taken up by a player who isn’t playing, Gorton could fill the spot with a useful piece. Along the same lines, Klein’s cap hit would come off the books. That $2.9 million could come in handy when looking at the current free agent market.
Kevin Klein has been a warrior for the Rangers for three and a half seasons. All we can do is thank him for his dedicated service and wish him luck in any of his future endeavors.