Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei skates past Buffalo Sabres left wing Benoit Pouliot on March 24, 2018, at Madison Square Garden..

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Hartnett: Brady Skjei Contract Could Prove To Be Bargain For Rangers

High-Upside Defenseman Re-Signs For 6 Years

Sean Hartnett
July 30, 2018 - 9:16 am
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The Rangers identified Brady Skjei as a core member of the future by locking down the 24-year-old defenseman to a six-year, $31.5 million contract Saturday.

Now signed through the 2023-24 season at $5.25 million in average annual value, Skjei’s contract runs the longest of any Ranger. Center Mika Zibanejad is signed through the 2021-22 season. Aside from that pair, the Blueshirts do not have any contractual obligations beyond the next three seasons.

Skjei’s new contract will cover his prime years. At the moment, it’s a fair-market deal for a defenseman of his caliber and potentially could be a bargain for the Rangers.

You’re looking at a 24-year-old who has already reached the 39-point mark and has proven his ability to play in the top four. If Skjei can push himself near 50 points while smoothing out his play in the defensive end, general manager Jeff Gorton would be lauded for paying a little more now to avoid an expensive contract later.

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Had Gorton opted to sign Skjei to a two-year bridge deal, it may have given Skjei’s camp the leverage to ask for a megadeal given the probability that he will improve over the next two seasons. I envision Skjei developing into a top-pairing defenseman while growing into a more dynamic offensive weapon and rounding out his shutdown game in the back end. This is totally possible given his excellent skating, impressive hockey IQ and 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame.

Skjei has the inside track to join a healthy Kevin Shattenkirk on the top pair at the start of next season. A stable partner could make all the difference for No. 76. Together, Shattenkirk and Skjei have the quickness and puck-moving skills to thrive in transition and dictate offensive zone time.

Granted, some Rangers fans are concerned by Skjei’s decline last season. He finished the 2017-18 campaign with 25 points after skating in all 82 regular season games. Skjei looked off the pace and struggled in coverage and when defending his own net.

It’s important to keep in mind that many Rangers played below their typical standard, and Skjei was subject to a revolving cast of blueline partners. I’m inclined to think that last season was an aberration in his young career and it’s going to be a clean slate under new head coach David Quinn.

Attention now turns to the future of center Kevin Hayes. Fellow restricted free agent center Ryan Spooner also remains unsigned. Hayes’ arbitration date has been set for Thursday, while Spooner’s hearing is scheduled for Saturday.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey​.