New York Rangers’ defenseman Kevin Klein has certainly made his presence known during his first full season as a Blueshirt. He came over to Broadway in a trade where the Nashville Predators received defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Klein was drafted in the second round of the of 2003 draft and 37th overall.
The thirty-year old defenseman from Canada absolutely had his best season in the NHL. He played majority of the year on the third defensive pairing with John Moore (until he got traded to Arizona for Keith Yandle), but has had to elevate his game in order to play in the top four. Klein is a reliable blue liner who has shown that he is able to post over twenty points in a season. Not really known for his offensive game, Klein tallied nine goals and twenty-six points in sixty five games. He was also second in scoring among defenseman with twenty-six.
Usually, coaches wouldn’t call upon a defenseman to score important goals, but Klein has done it this past campaign on multiple occasions. One being the game-winner in the third period against the New York Islanders and another in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins, after losing part of his ear. Those are
just two examples when New York’s most consistent d-man this season has came through for them.
Klein has been the team’s most underrated player this season and makes the smart and simple defensive plays. He is disciplined in his own zone and can be paired with Marc Staal to shutdown the opposing team’s top players. General Manager Glen Sather has found a gem in Klein and despite his name coming up in trade rumors this offseason, should not use him as trade bait to ease up salary cap.
He loves getting to the gritty areas and does whatever he needs to make sure his team comes out with a win. Not only does he love going to the dirty, gritty areas, Klein is not afraid to stick up for his teammates. He will drop the gloves when needed, even against the most talented fighters. He wears his heart on his sleeve and leaves it all out on the ice.
Unfortunately, in a game against the Washington Capitals back in March, Klein blocked a slap shot from Alexander Ovechkin, which broke his arm. Klein was to miss up to 3 to 4 weeks and would possibly miss some of the playoffs. He did not return to action until the first game of the second round against the Washington Capitals. Losing Klein definitely tested the backend, but with Matt Hunwick as the seventh defenseman, the Rangers were able to weather the storm with ease.
Klein is locked in until the 2018-2019 season. He currently has a cap hit of $2.9 million. He has been one of the most dependable blue liners since coming over from Nashville and adds great depth to the backend. He can play top four minute when needed and can also play complement a third pairing due to his hockey sense and defensive ability. If the Rangers were to trade him this offseason just to shed some salary, it would be a costly mistake. Klein has shown what he can do offensively and it may just be the beginning. A healthy Kevin Klein is a dangerous one and the Rangers should take advantage of that next season.