The New York Rangers’ 2019 offseason was one centered around the end of the team’s “rebuilding” stage and the beginning of their ascension to becoming a Stanley Cup contender. Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko’s arrival represented another step in the team’s youth movement, while Artemiy Panarin and Jacob Trouba were brought in as established veterans to add star power to a Blueshirts’ team desperately lacking in that category. After acquiring the 20th overall selection from the Winnipeg Jets as part of a deal for Kevin Hayes, the Rangers opted to package the pick with Neal Pionk and send those assets back to Winnipeg to acquire Trouba.
Trouba arrived as a restricted free agent in need of a long term contract, so Jeff Gorton, John Davidson and friends inked him to a seven year, $56 million pact to anchor the team’s right side for the foreseeable future shortly after his acquisition. As one of only seven defenseman counting for at least $8,000,000 against the salary cap throughout the entire league, it would’ve taken a Herculean performance for Trouba to justify his salary from the back end. So how did he do?
Boxcar Stats: 70 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 61 PIM’s, 168 SOG, 22:34 TOI/GP
5 on 5 Analytical Metrics: 0.78 Points/60, -2.13 Relative Corsi For%, -2.90 Relative Shots For%, -3.55 Relative Scoring Chances For%, 1.61 Relative HD Scoring Chances For%, -1.11 Expected Goals For%, -14.77 Relative Goals For%, 98.4 PDO
That’s a laundry list’s worth of statistics, and it’s admittedly a lot to parse through. The main thing to take away from those numbers is that nearly across the board, the Rangers were outshot, outchanced, and outscored by a wider margin whenever Trouba was on the ice as opposed to whenever he was on the bench.
Among the team’s other regular defenders, (Adam Fox, Marc Staal, Ryan Lindgren, Brady Skjei, and Tony DeAngelo) Trouba usually found himself 5th on the team nestled between Staal and Skjei in a majority of those stats. The abominably bad relative Goals For% was the worst among all defenseman on the roster, even outdoing Libor Hajek’s disastrous NHL stint this season.
Trouba had an electric debut on Broadway, recording a goal and two assists in the Blueshirts’ season opening 5-4 victory over the aforementioned Jets, but it was downhill from there. Trouba had a rough second half of the season in particular, failing to score a goal and only tallying four assists in the 22 contests following the All-Star break prior to the end of the regular season. While some may argue that Trouba was brought in primarily as a defensive stalwart to balance out Tony DeAngelo’s offensive prowess, Trouba’s defending left plenty to be desired as well.
Between Trouba’s pending no trade clauses set to kick in prior to next season, his gargantuan contract, and his status as the team’s third best right handed defender, questions have been raised about Trouba’s future in New York. While a move is highly unlikely given the circumstances that led to Trouba’s arrival, its something that the Blueshirts’ brass must consider as they head into the 2020-21 campaign.
Trouba is set to enter his age 26 season, so he is what he is at this point. There’s optimism that a shift in defensive schemes allegedly spearheaded by former assistant coach Lindy Ruff to those of the recently hired Jacques Martin will help turn around Trouba’s game. In addition to the coaching changes, there has been talk of the team searching for a steady partner to pair with Trouba.
While Tony Deangelo spent most of his season alongside Marc Staal, and Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren formed a stellar defensive pair for the majority of the season, Trouba rotated through Libor Hajek, Brady Skjei, and Brendan Smith on his left side throughout the season. A consistent partner would go a long way towards helping Trouba perform better next season. However, when the dialogue surrounding a team’s $56 million defenseman is centered around finding a partner to help him play better, he’s probably not a $56 million defenseman, nor will he ever be.
Even if the Rangers had just signed Trouba in free agency to fill a vacant spot on the blue line, his debut season would be seen as a massive disappointment. When you take into account the hoops the team jumped through to slot him in on the team’s first pair, (trade cost, contract cost, Shattenkirk buyout, less minutes for Fox and DeAngelo, etc) Trouba’s acquisition went as disastrously at it could have gone. Fortunately for him, the Michigan native has another six years on his deal to prove Jeff Gorton and friends that their leap of faith was the correct call.