NBC’s Keith Jones on telling Rangers move, NHL trade deadline fallout

NBC Sports hockey analyst Keith Jones talks with The Post’s Justin Terranova about the Rangers’ surprising move before the deadline, the Islanders’ brilliant one and the big winners from a crucial NHL week.

Q: What jumped out at you as the NHL trade deadline unfolded?

A: The fact that the Rangers kept Chris Kreider. Any time it goes up to the last minute, I am of the mindset that the player is probably not staying. Also, the Penguins picking up Patrick Marleau, who wants to win a Stanley Cup before he retires. I’ve been impressed with how aggressive [Penguins GM] Jim Rutherford has been to make sure that window doesn’t close on [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin without giving them an opportunity to win a couple of more Cups. That includes the [Jason] Zucker trade, too. They did a nice job of adding some complementary pieces.

Q: So, the Penguins were the most improved team?

A: I also liked what the Capitals did in the last couple of weeks. This little bump in the road recently allowed GM Brian MacLellan the opportunity to reach out and add a couple of pieces that may have been missing. Brenden Dillon is a big tough defenseman who plays with a physicality that a majority of this team is built on. And Ilya Kovalchuk will be interesting, he has a lot of connections with the Russian players in Washington.

Q: What does the Rangers keeping Kreider say about the direction of the franchise?

A: They are way closer than I thought they would be as a playoff team this season. And it’s now about getting the team to the next level to compete for a Stanley Cup. It’s been a terrific turnaround and a really fast one. It tells me that they are impressed with what they’ve done.

Q: How have they gotten so ahead of schedule?

A: Artemi Panarin has just been off the charts. Any time you arrive in a new city there can be a little delay in your game coming together, but he has just been incredible. The passion that he injects not only into his own play, but the rest of the team is impressive. David Quinn’s ability to help younger defensemen develop into prime-time performers, like Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox, has helped speed up the process for them, as well.

Q: What did you think of the Islanders’ trade for Jean-Gabriel Pageau?

A: Much-needed. Lou Lamoriello knows he has a team that can defend and limit scoring chances. But he had a glaring need to go out and find someone who can produce offensively. Pageau can do that. He competes with a lot of intensity, is a feisty little guy in high-traffic areas. He fits the mold of a Barry Trotz guy to a T. I thought it was perfect and it was more impressive that they were able to get him to re-sign. What they gave up for him won’t look as bad because he’s staying in the fold for the next six years.

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