The Rangers Should Overpay for Jacob Trouba

Trouba(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The best hockey trades are the ones where you deal from strength to address a weakness. Last week I wrote about the 1990 trade between the Rangers and Kings that sent Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom for Bernie Nicholls. A true blockbuster where 2 top line wings were traded to fortify a weakness at the center position. 

This year’s Rangers team is flush with forwards, especially on the wings. With the addition of Michael Grabner, and 2 rookies, Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey, they have 7 wings that should play on the top 3 lines, but there is only room for 6. But, as everyone knows, they are painfully thin on defense.

Winnipeg Jets Dilemma

Back in May, Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba asked to be traded by the Winnipeg Jets. This information was kept quiet until September of 2016, when his agent made it public. At this point the Jets let it be known that they would trade Trouba for a left-handed version of him. Stories came out about the Jets shooting down an offer of Taylor Hall (6 mil Per) for Trouba because they felt that they were going to be paying their forwards, too high a percentage of their payroll.
When you look at the Jets skaters as a group, you will find they are the polar opposite of the Rangers. They are very right-handed, both at forward and defense. Also, they have a lot of “shooters”, whereas the Rangers seem to have a lot of players with a pass first mentality. This is where you say, “these two teams match up pretty well trade-wise.”

Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

A Controversial Idea

My idea is this: Brady Skjei and Mats Zuccarello for Jacob Trouba. I’ll duck right now from the spears and arrows. Ok, let me explain. I really like both players I am suggesting to trade, but you have to give to get.

Trouba (22) is one month older than Skjei, with a lot more experience and upside. Trouba’s play this year has been stellar. After holding out hoping for a trade, then signing in November, he is clearly showing he is first pair defenseman. Right-handed, and 6’3′, Trouba has a very similar skill set to Ryan McDonagh, and would be a perfect compliment to him for many years to come.

Over the last two seasons, McDonagh has been saddled with inferior partners to put it mildly. Dan Girardi was brutal last year. And while he has been better this year, he is more of a third pair low minute defenseman now. Kevin Klein is no longer a fit in the Rangers system. His play has been a season long problem.
A partnership of Trouba and McDonagh would be a 25 minute a night tandem. Marc Staal and Nick Holden would be a 20 minute a night second pair, with Girardi and possibly Ryan Graves on the third pair. In my world Kevin Klein gets traded to a team that plays a more conservative system where he can be solid. Maybe Jeff Gorton can find another Nick Holden from a different team that would thrive with the Rangers. The point is, when all are healthy, the Rangers would have an excellent set of defensemen slotted exactly where they can all excel.

What Does This do for the Jets?

Brady Skjei fits the Jets original asking price to a point. He is left-handed. He is the same age. He now has a full year nhl experience under his belt including some playoff games. He, too was a first round pick and has good potential. He could slide right into a pairing with Tyler Myers (when healthy), and have a solid career, playing closer to his home state of Minnesota.

Zuccarello would be missed here. He has grit, character, and plenty of creativity. But, he has zero no trade protection, which makes him vulnerable for a trade. Mats could do very well setting up the likes of Patrick Laine, Mark Scheiffle and Nic Ehlers for 2 years, at which point his contract would run out. The timing would be perfect for the Jets, who could let him go just when some of those Winnipeg forwards start making big money.

Salary Cap Implications

Word has been coming out that the expectation is that the salary cap will be flat next season. Meaning there may be only the slightest (less than a million) increase to the current limit of 73 million. What that means for the Rangers is a forward that makes substantial money will have to be moved to improve the defense, one way or another. Could it be Rick Nash? It will be hard to find a team with a) cap room and b) would also have to be on his list of teams he’d accept a trade to. Derek Stepan is possible, since his partial no-trade protection kicks in on July 1. But, that would leave a big hole down the middle at the center position. Which leaves us Zuccarello. He turns 30 before next season. He has 2 years left on his contract at 4.5 million per year.
Jimmy Vesey didn’t sign here to be a 4th line wing. Neither did Pavel Buchnevich. JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Chris Krieder are safely on the untouchable list. Going forward, whether this hypothetical deal happened this season ore next, the lines could look like this: Vesey-Stepan-Nash, Kreider-Zibanajad-Buchnevich, Miller-Hayes-Grabner. All three of these combinations have shown chemistry this season. Then add in combos on D with McDonagh-Trouba, and Staal-Holden, with the third pair to be determined.
All the Details
There is always a chance the Jets wouldn’t want Zuccarello as part of the deal. Other teams would. Perhaps a three team deal would be in order? Of course if the deal was made in the next 3 weeks, the expansion draft protected list would have to be taken into account. Upside, without Zuccarello, Grabner would be protected as part of their 7 forwards. The downside is that the Rangers can only protect 3 defensemen. Mcdonagh and Trouba, have to be kept. But, Girardi and Staal need to be protected, due to their no movement clauses. Unless one or the other waives it, which is more likely with Girardi then Staal. Again, this is all if a trade were to happen BEFORE the expansion draft.

Gorton (NYR)


The Summary

Gm Jeff Gorton is a smart, creative guy. He knows what the team needs and if he has the pieces to get it. If the Jets have interest in both players, maybe a draft pick also comes back to the Rangers. The bottom line is that the Rangers need a partner for Ryan McDonagh. And that type of player is in extremely high demand throughout the NHL. I do believe Trouba has a better future than Skjei. Trading a guy like Zuccarello is like trading Derrick Brassard or Carl Hagelin. It stinks. But in the cap era, you have to keep evolving. After trading Hagelin, the Rangers signed Viktor Stalberg to replace him at a quarter of the salary. Stalberg was decent. Now his replacement is Grabner. And he has been outstanding.
Pavel Buchnevich is the in house replacement for Mats Zuccarello. The Russian rookie is great with the puck, a clever play maker, and has an underrated shot. In order for him to progress he needs to be a top 6 forward, playing with skilled players, and getting increased ice time. The same can be said about Jimmy Vesey. Someone has to be moved to get both of these talented kids entrenched in the top 3 lines.

A Word On Shattenkirk

Switching gears slightly to another option, it has become very likely the Blues will trade Kevin Shattenkirk before the trading deadline. The Blues are in a freefall out of a playoff spot as their goaltending is at the bottom of the league. Some things to keep in mind: Shattenkirk is better suited on a second pairing rather than a top tandem. Though, he is clearly an upgrade on Klein and Girardi, he isn’t a defensive zone stalwart. He would help the power play immensely. He would cost a first round pick, at the minimum. And while the Rangers haven’t had a first round pick in so many years, this years draft is thought to be a weak one. The Rangers would not have to protect Shattenkirk from the expansion draft, since he is an unrestricted free agent. He could be re-signed after said draft. As long as there is cap room, that is.


  • So we finally developed a d-man worthwhile keeping and we should trade him for a d-man that we will have to pay a large contract (6 mil) makes no sense. Let Gorton find a reliable d-man like the ghost from Philly (if possible). Also how would we fit Trouba in our cap space?

    • Jacob Trouba has a cap hit of 3 mil this year and next season.

    • Dave this is one of the few times I totally agree with you. The Rangers will have cap space problems for years to come. Trouba is making 6 mil per year, the Rangers do not have that kind of cap space EVEN if you factor Nash not being around. Also I don’t believe Trouba is still looking tonneau traded. That seemed to be just a ploy to get signed instead of staying in limbo.

      Also why would the Jets want a soon to be 30 yr old winger, they aren’t close to being a contender. Zucc isn’t going to be the player that puts them over the hump when their goalies have more holes than Swiss cheese. The Jets wand a young and cheap player back in return. Jets interest starts and ends with Miller who I’m not opposed to trading.

      There are plenty of d who would come much cheaper in both salary and trade chips than Trouba who are just as good defensively. Trouba’s offense is nice to have but isn’t needed with this roster. Offense isn’t a concern of the Rangers.

      • Mike Dave,

        Trouba is currently a cap hit for this season and next equal to Klein. Will he get a raise absolutely, will it go to 6 I have no idea. In that time Cap hits that are off the books are Nash (hopefully he is resigned for less) IF Zucc was traded then his, as well as, Klein. Thats alot of freed up money. I wouldnt be against Miller but I cant see Miller and Skjei together in a deal, I think thats overpaying, but I would part with one.

        Trouba is a first line, RHD who is young. I think alot of people are against the idea of trading for him because of his cost to acquire. It will include atleast one fan favorite. But he isnt a rental, hes something to solidify the first line defense now and for the future. Those players dont come cheap.

        • So how would Shattenkirk fit in as off season signing? Not having Zuc would destroy team chemistry.

          • Im not a big fan of Shattenkirk. I think hes gonna get overpaid, and hes never played first line minutes. However, I have said and stilll agree if Gortons plan is to get Shattenkirk in the offseason get him now and make sure he fits before giving him the 6+ mil, 7 year NMC contract someones gonna give him.

      • Trouba is a 3 mil cap hit this season and next.

  • I agree with going for Trouba and you have to give to get. Putting the first line defense in order is more important than the third pair, which is where Skjei currently plays. That being said unless Gorton finds a taker for Klein, which I feel is more of an offseason move for a 5th to a non playoff team, the third pair will be Klein and Girardi.

    One player you left out that could become apart kf this is Antti Raanta. The Jets netminding has been a disaster. Hes got one year left on a cheap contract, when that is up I dont see him here. Likely to find a true 1a/1b setting, to try and take the number 1.

    If they like Mats and Raanta maybe that could save Skjei by including a Graves or Day and a pick. If its Skjei or nothing Id still do it, Mac is our number one and needs a partner. I dont see Staal going for atleast another year or two, which only leaves one spot for Skjei/Graves/Day. If neither Graves(more likely) or Day are ready next year as you said can always find a Holden to be reliable third line.

  • Would Winnepeg be interested in Skjei / Gropp & 1st rd pick for Trouba

  • When I first read this I was like NO not zuke! But I have to admit, I would do it. Good point about making room on the top lines for Vesey and Buchnevich. Can’t play 4th line minutes and develop. I would be fine dealing Raanta also since his value would never be higher.

  • How about going all in for the next two years with a D of McD and Trouba; Shattenkirk and Holden; Mark S and Graves?

  • I will have no respect for the rangers if they trade zucc!!!

  • Liked the article, nice read…..except for one thing. Mentioning Zuccha to be traded OVER Stepan is a major oversight. Did you forget about Stepans NTC kicking in on July 1st? Do we really want to go there YET AGAIN? Steps makes about 2 mil more than Zuccha, and think we can get by with JT, Hayes, Zbad and Lindberg. JT is emerging into quite the all around player himself replacing Steps role. Probably would be better on the PP as well and is already a PK specialist alond side his buddies Hayes and Grabs. Only downside is splitting them up, which is bound to happen anyway. I can do without Stepan, not so much Zuccha. In fact watching a Rangers game would never be the same without him and still say we may have beaten L.A. had we had his expertise.

    • The issue to me is looking at it from both sides. The Jets turned down Taylor Hall for Jacob Trouba because Taylor Hall would cost 6 mil a year now and way more going forward. The Jets were seeking a left defenseman. Zuccarello has a more manageable 4.5 mil a year contract and Skjei is making small change for the 2 years that zuc has left on his deal. zuc is also a valuable asset that could be moved without any problem. Also the other difficulty with trading Stepan is there is no player currently ready to step in for him. The Rangers have been rotating Vesey and Buchnevich on the fourth line. These 2 players are too good for the fourth line. A wing needs to be moved to ensure both of these young players get top 9 minutes, as well as some PP time. Most would say move Nash. To that I say, that is easier said then done. A flat cap next year may mean the teams on his list that he could get traded to, wouldn’t have room for Nash. It’s a lot easier to move Zuccarello because he has zero no trade language.

We would love your thoughts! Comment Please!