Brady Skjei isn’t the most talked about RFA this offseason, as Kevin Hayes seems to be taking that honor, however he is still an important offseason move for the Rangers. Skjei, coming off his entry level deal, is due a significant raise, and one that may shape the blue line for years to come.
The 24 year old former first round pick had one of the best rookie defensemen years we’ve seen on Broadway since Brian Leetch. Skjei put up five goals and a whopping 34 assists in that first year. However his stats regressed big time last season, with a line of 4-21-25. The goals were more or less there, but the assists weren’t.
The interesting thing about Skjei is that while he may have had a down year, he’s still pretty good at putting up points. He’s ranked in the upper half among all defensemen in Game Score, and is still a good assist generator.
When it comes to his possession stats, it’s tough to argue that he generated a positive impact. He wasn’t good at driving shots, and he wasn’t good at preventing them –or quality chances, for that matter– either. It’s tough to really argue with the numbers. However you can argue with the situation.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but the Rangers were bad defensively the past two years. Some of it is on the players, but I’m convinced –or at least I convinced myself, so I don’t really know what’s worse– that the majority of the poor play was due to the system. Again, not going to beat the dead horse, I’ve spent a ton of space here going into it.
Skjei’s skill set is that he’s a smooth skating defenseman who makes a good first pass. Clearly we need some time in a more structured defensive zone system to analyze his play in the defensive zone, but it’s a skill set that the Rangers are building their blue line around.
Looking at Matt Cane’s salary model, Skjei is projected to earn $2.8 million on a one year deal, if that’s what he signs. Getting into some of the longer term deals –using five years, taking him through his age-29 season– he is projected to earn $4.1 million. A six year deal, taking him through age-30, it’s $4.6 million.
When committing to a player long term, there is always risk involved. For Skjei, it’s about whether the system was to blame for his issues, or if it really is just what to expect of the blue liner. However he was relied upon heavily in Minnesota as a defensive defenseman, which leads me to believe it was the system.
Considering the amount of cap space the Rangers currently have, they are able to take a risk like this without it impacting them too much long term. If they hit on Skjei, then it’s a gamble that has paid off. If not, then they are rebuilding for most of these years anyway, with oodles of cap space to work with. I lean towards signing him long term."Is commiting to Brady Skjei long term a smart move?",