Hartnett: How Far Should Rangers Go For Jacob Trouba?

Sean Hartnett
June 17, 2019 - 1:34 pm
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It’s no secret that the Rangers have maintained a strong interest in acquiring Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Jacob Trouba. As the days veer closer to the June 21-22 draft, the rumor mill is going to shift into overdrive.

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The Blueshirts are by no means in a one-horse race to land the first-pair blueliner. As Larry Brooks of The New York Post noted, the Islanders and Devils are among teams hoping to put together a package that ultimately brings Trouba to their arena, then lock him down to a seven-year pact.

Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff must be feeling buoyant about his chances of returning from Vancouver draft weekend with a real haul in exchange for the coveted defenseman. The Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins are also among teams that have been declared as Trouba suitors in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts.

Cheveldayoff’s asking price is going to be steep. At a minimum, the Jets are probably going to receive a first-round pick and several high-ceiling prospects or a pair of talented youngsters who’ve already made the jump to the NHL.

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The Rangers are a match. They possess the assets to satisfy the Jets’ demands – but at what point does Jeff Gorton balk at the asking price? Because the amount of interest in Trouba could result in a genuine bidding war where one overeager GM gets suckered into an overpay.

Sending Pavel Buchnevich, Nils Lundkvist, Lias Andersson and the 20th overall pick to Winnipeg seems like a bridge too far. Obviously, you have to give up something attractive to acquire a key piece like Trouba. The element of the speculated trade package that deserves deep consideration is Buchnevich.

Jacob Trouba reacts against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period at Staples Center.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I get the feeling that there’s a lot to come from Buchnevich in a Rangers uniform, provided that he remains in New York. At age 24, with three seasons under his belt – and most importantly – a solid relationship established with head coach David Quinn, there’s an expectation that the highly-skilled wing could soon flourish.

I believe that the most astute GMs are the ones who know when to walk away from the table, survey the market and pursue alternative plans. It’s not like the Rangers are readymade to challenge for Lord Stanley next season, even if Trouba arrives at The Garden. I don’t think it would be the worst thing to squeeze one more year out of Kevin Shattenkirk to see what he still has left in the tank and then make a run at Tyson Barrie in 2020 free agency or sooner.

A first-half resurgence from Shattenkirk could make it a whole lot easier for the Blueshirts to move him while retaining some of his $6.65 million cap hit. If the Rangers were to add Trouba, a Shattenkirk buyout wouldn’t be far behind given the Blueshirts’ depth on the right side.

If the Rangers were to buyout Shattenkirk, there would be a savings of $5.167 million in the upcoming season, a savings of $566,667 in 2020-21, followed by $1.433 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons.

There are a lot of factors for Gorton to consider in the pursuit of Trouba – the price tag of a seven-year extension hovering around $7.5 million per season, the package it’s going to take to convince Cheveldayoff and the Jets to pull the trigger, the likelihood of buying out Shattenkirk and possibly Brendan Smith.

Then again, the fear of losing Trouba to the Devils or Isles could be a real driving force for the Rangers to go all-in for the 50-point defenseman. In the end, hockey is a risk-and-reward game on the ice. Same goes in the front office. We’ll soon find out if Gorton has the inside track in the Trouba chase.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey