Hartnett: Rangers Pulled Off A Heist In Trouba Trade

Sean Hartnett
June 18, 2019 - 9:47 am

On Monday night, the Rangers stunned the hockey world by acquiring Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets for the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and young defenseman Neal Pionk.

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Keep in mind, that 20th overall pick was originally acquired by the Rangers from Winnipeg along with Brendan Lemieux for a 26-game rental of Kevin Hayes. Pionk has potential as an offense-generating defenseman – but for Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to give away a no. 1 defenseman for a first-round pick that the Jets originally owned and a defenseman who became surplus to requirements in the Rangers’ masterplan is mind-boggling.

Call it what it is: pure robbery. This is the kind of one-sided deal that fans dream of making in NHL '19 franchise mode. Yet, Jeff Gorton pulled this off in real life. This shouldn’t happen in reality with experienced GMs calling the shots. Cheveldayoff has been running the show in The ‘Peg since 2011 and was named a finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award in 2018. It’s truly confounding that he signed off on this trade.

Trouba is a prime-aged, all-around, every situation defenseman. He excels as a shutdown man, plays with aggression, knows when to join the rush and is capable of scoring goals from the point and the low-slot.

Related: Rangers Acquire Jacob Trouba For Neal Pionk, 20th Pick

The 25-year-old is coming off the strongest statistical season of his career after recording 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) in 82 games.

Trouba possesses the ideal combination of being big, mobile, a skilled puck handler and a right-hander with a solid point shot to boot. Defensemen like this don’t grow on trees. All of the advanced metrics, situational statistics and years of game tape point to Trouba being a franchise defenseman who can lead the way for the Rangers.

Jacob Trouba during the third period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is essentially Winnipeg’s version of the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson trade that doomed the Edmonton Oilers. It’s going to hurt the Jets and their fanbase for years to come. Cheveldayoff had days to drum up a bidding war but instead fell into the trap of not giving teams permission to speak with Trouba’s agent – allowing the Rangers to sneak in and get their man for a heavily-discounted trade package.

Trouba is currently a restricted free agent. He is eligible to sign an extension on July 1.

There are no conditional picks involved if Trouba re-signs with the Rangers. Even if Trouba turns out to be a pure rental, this trade will be remembered as an absolute bargain for the Rangers. If Trouba signs a long-term extension – which everyone with knowledge of the situation believes will happen, Gorton and the Blueshirts committed a flat-out heist.

The Rangers are likely looking at a seven-year commitment south of $8 million per year. That type of cap number is perfectly fine because the Blueshirts will see the benefit of Trouba’s best years. This is different than signing Kevin Shattenkirk at age 28 (I will save Shattenkirk’s future for another column on another day).

Most importantly, the arrival of Trouba accelerates the Rangers’ rebuild because his acquisition was accomplished without surrendering the likes of Pavel Buchnevich or any other player key to the Blueshirts’ future.

The rebuild switch has been flipped in the opposite direction. For two years, the Rangers were a sleeping giant. Trouba’s arrival signals an aggressive approach from Gorton and makes Madison Square Garden an increasingly attractive destination for top free agent wing Artemi Panarin.

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