When the New York Rangers officially announced the Jacob Trouba trade it almost instantly became one of those “where were you when you heard” trades that legitimate blew you away. You, like many, probably read, then re-read the official tweet over and over again to make sure you didn’t miss something. Did they sandwich Pavel Buchnevich between 20th overall pick and Neal Pionk? Did I miss Nils Lundkvist’s name at the end?
(If you want an hour of 10-minutes-after-the-trade-was-announced podcasting, Greg and Ryan joined us on this week’s show to talk all about it. It was pretty much pure celebration and bliss. Listen to it here.)
In the end, the trade was remarkably simple: the 20th overall pick (which was Winnipeg’s from the Kevin Hayes trade) and Neal Pionk for Trouba. No conditions. No nothing. Clean and simple.
When Jeff Gorton made the Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad swap just about three years ago we knew it was great. We knew it would age well, but it took two years for us to realize just how much of a grand slam the deal really was. The Trouba trade is different, because off the bat the Rangers removed one of their biggest problems on defense, and their second first-round pick for an instant top-pair defenseman on this team who plays the right side. If the Rangers max Trouba out at a seven-year extension, he will be 32 when the contract expires.
He’s less than two years older than Pionk. Think about that.
This has the makings of one of those defining trades for a general manager, and really the first real bona fide home run by Gorton during this rebuild. If you have been harboring reservations or concerns about Gorton, you should feel a little better this morning. This is a statement of statements, and there’s so many layers to this trade that it’s like cutting an onion.
We have discussed at length in this space the battle between Pionk and DeAngelo, that there probably wasn’t enough room for both of them, and that management had a decision to make. There were reasons to be concerned Pionk would be the winner — mainly that he was used more regularly than DeAngelo and the team seemed smitten with his offense despite the horrors that came from his own zone.
While it’s possible Winnipeg demanded Pionk, the Rangers still needed to be willing to part with him. I would be shocked if DeAngelo wasn’t kept on a bridge deal this summer, and he is already slotting in as the PP2 trigger man on the point before even stepping on the ice. Allowing DeAngelo to do his thing against lesser competition should be a fantastic way for him to continue to develop.
I wonder what involvement JD had in this move — it’s likely he only gave the green light on the finalized deal, but I’d like to hope he’s already done an analytic review of the players on the bubble. When was the last time the Rangers feasted on a non-analytic team to this level? When was the last time it was the Rangers kicking the door down and selling high on a guy who is by all accounts a nice guy, but probably not an NHL player? The Rangers turned a potential AHL asset and a 20th overall pick for Trouba. Go ahead and slap yourself, you’re not dreaming.
Trouba’s inevitable extension — and yes, I would be shocked if he didn’t stick around long term — isn’t even a factor. That’s how good this trade is. As Tom pointed out this morning, if Trouba decided he hated the bright lights and wanted nothing to do with Broadway through the prime of his career, the Rangers can flip him at the deadline; maybe for double the price they paid to get him.
But again, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
When Brooks originally suggested the 20th overall, Pavel Buchnevich, and Nils Lundkvist; I balked at the price. Not because of what Trouba was and wasn’t, but it was more because of the timeline. Trouba taking away one of the team’s coveted prospects and Buchnevich left holes in the pipeline and the NHL roster, and it didn’t move the Rangers that much closer to contention — especially with the current unknown of Artemi Panarin. That Gorton somehow got Trouba without removing a single NHL roster player or any prospect — let alone prospects of note — is insanity on a level I can’t quite articulate for you.
Adam in a way hit it on the head in the piece that he wrote in January, and this section is especially poignant now.
The best move could be to trade him. Contrary to traditional belief, 23 years old is quite ripe for an NHL defenseman. Players can always improve, but the idea of some sort of surge from Pionk as he approaches his 24th birthday is likely wishful thinking. However, it doesn’t really matter how good Pionk is but rather how other teams around the NHL perceive him; just ask Adam Larsson or Griffin Reinhart. Pionk was a highly touted college player who is averaging nearly a point every other game in the NHL. He’s also a young, right-handed defenseman under team control for multiple seasons ahead. There are likely NHL teams who would value him quite highly, and the Rangers have a chance to cash in while that value is still there.
The Rangers kept all their key players, they kept all their key prospects, they shed a problem that would have surfaced with an extended Pionk, and they lost their second first-round pick in a draft where they’re getting one of the premier players available.
If I told you to make a realistic trade for Trouba that would work out well for the Rangers you’d likely have offered more than Gorton did for the deal that went down last night.
I can’t think of a bigger win than that for Gorton.
The only questions now are which teams will he fleece next and what will the Trouba extension look like?