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Rangers In Great Position to Benefit From Jeff Gorton’s Low Risk Acquisition of Jacob Trouba

This move is practically a no lose situation for the Blueshirts.

New York Rangers v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Jacob Trouba is a New York Ranger, but how long that remains is unknown at this point. The Blueshirts acquired the 25-year-old blueliner in an early evening deal on Monday night, and many were shocked to see that the cost to acquire him was just Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019; a pick the Rangers acquired in the Kevin Hayes trade from Winnipeg.

It has been speculated by a few that the low cost to acquire Trouba was because there weren’t many teams willing to give up assets for a player who essentially could remain under contract for just one season, as he’s a year away from unrestricted free agency. The Jets did not allow teams to speak with Trouba, so few knew whether he’d be willing to sign long term, which likely played a factor in their return.

It is also possible that the Jets liked Pionk for some reason, as multiple teams allegedly had better offers that weren’t ultimately accepted. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As an RFA with arbitration rights, Trouba has some control over his future. If the Rangers don’t work out a long-term deal this summer, he’ll likely sign a one-year deal which takes him to unrestricted free agency next July. Last season he made $5.5 million — an award via arbitration — so figure a one year award to be at least $6 million or higher.

Gorton spoke to Trouba’s agent Kurt Overhardt after the trade, and the two agreed to talk over the next few days. Gorton is familiar with Overhardt, as he currently represents Jesper Fast, so when the two meet they can get down to business and not dilly dally around with introductory ice breakers.

Gorton went on to add that the Rangers have done their research on what a player like Trouba is worth, and has a figure in mind. The Rangers’ general manager went as far to say, “it just felt like this is going to be a player that’s going to be with us for a while.”

Trouba is excited about joining the Rangers, and spoke with Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun after the trade.

“But I’m super excited for a new hockey opportunity and a new place. It’s different, so that’s something you’re naturally excited about. I haven’t thought too much into it, but I know a couple of guys there. You know about the city and playing at MSG on the road, for me, was one of my favourite spots to play. Just with the history and the crowd and the buzz, it’s just a whole new world. I’m excited for new avenues of life and new experiences.”

Trouba added that the opportunity is not only good for him, but his fiancé who is going to start her residency on her journey to become a doctor, and from a life perspective it was easier for him to be in the United States.

He also didn’t want to discuss whether or not he was open to signing a long-term deal, but said that he’s sure they will deal with the next steps in the morning and start beginning to have those talks.

Trouba is pretty close with Brady Skjei, and I think there’s a chance the duo could be paired together next season, and the years after that.

The Rangers assuredly want to lock up Trouba given his skill, youth, and the fact that they didn’t give up too much via trade, but they have alternatives in the event he’s not interested in signing a long-term deal.

If Trouba signs a one-year deal, he would be eligible for an extension on January 1. The Rangers would have from that point up until the deadline to work on a long-term deal. If they are unable to come to an agreement, Trouba would likely hit the trade market right away; with the Rangers holding out for the best possible deal ahead of the deadline.

Below is a list of other defenders slated to be free agents in July of 2020. As you can see, Trouba would be the youngest, and one of the most attractive, options for a team loading up for a deep playoff run.

Because the cost of this acquisition was so low — Winnipeg’s own first-round pick and pending RFA Neal Pionk who fell off a cliff in the second half of the season — at the bare minimum the Rangers should be able to break even in terms of assets if they had to flip him at the deadline, so there’s a good chance they’d come out ahead.

This would be the case by receiving just a 2020 first rounder to replace the 2019 pick they dealt, as the depth of the draft means the Blueshirts will have a quality shot at adding a good young player. Anything else they’d receive — and there’s a good chance a trade could include more, especially if there aren’t any big name defenders holding up the market — would be gravy, but going into in-depth hypotheticals is putting the cart before the horse.

Gorton and the Rangers decided to act presumably because they are confident they can sign Trouba long-term. Evolving-Hockey’s model projects Trouba signing for $7,324,489 with a term of five years to be the most likely scenario. Here’s the full look at their projections, but note that signing for eight years if off the table because Trouba was not on the Rangers’ reserve list at the trade deadline.

Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic has Trouba’s market value pegged at $6.5 million for seven years.

The difference in value is about a million dollars a season, so if the Rangers were to split this difference, it would be $7 million at the very least. Such a deal would require additional moves to be made to clear cap space — moves that would likely come from their already expensive blue line — as the team is expected to try and sign Artemi Panarin. There will be more content on the implications of this trade in the coming days, but here’s a quick estimate of what things could cost.

And here’s the long view on the deals signed.

The summary of the mock roster above includes:

  • A buyout of Brendan Smith
  • Kevin Shattenkirk traded (50% retained)
  • Jimmy Vesey and Ryan Strome traded for futures assets
  • Artemi Panarin signing for $11.5 million, seven years
  • Jacob Trouba signing for $7.5 million, six years
  • Pavel Buchnevich signing for $3.25 million, two years
  • Tony DeAngelo signing for $3.25 million, two years
  • Brendan Lemieux signing for $1.1 million, two years
  • Kaapo Kakko signing for $925,000, three years
  • Fredrik Claesson signing for $850,000, one year

You can sub out Claesson for a low-cost NHL defender, but I think it would make sense to take advantage of the fact that he’s an RFA and knows the system. I also have this roster carrying three goalies, for now, as I think that could be something that happens for a short period of time. Boo Nieves serves as the 13th forward, and Libor Hajek is the seventh defenseman.

This was a quick exercise and it features a combination of some players getting a little more or little less than they could end up with. It would leave the team with $1,965,558 in cap space while carrying a third goalie which could be swapped with another sub-$1 million player. It goes without saying that subtracting Panarin from the equation gives the team a ton of flexibility — which would allows them the space to submit an offer sheet that would cost four first-round picks (if we ever see offer sheets again, that is).

Gorton was noncommittal when asked if the addition of Trouba changes how the Rangers will go about using a buyout, and I’d imagine they will be working the phones trying to move players with up to 50 percent salary retention if necessary.

Regardless of what happens next, the Rangers took a big step forward by adding Trouba at such a low cost. The team has either added a piece who will be a long-term upgrade on the blue line, or they have added a quality trade chip to be cashed in at a later date. The Rangers also benefit from selling high on Neal Pionk, someone who could have been signed to a multi-year deal for more than he is worth.

It is going to be interesting to see if the Rangers have any more tricks up their sleeve, and I’d imagine there will be some more activity before night one of the draft on Friday.

Financial data via Cap Friendly.