The need for an elite defenseman

Jacob Trouba

As mentioned this morning, the Rangers are in need of that elite #1 defenseman, be it an established young #1D or a prospect with that kind of future. With potentially elite prospects up front and in net, defense is still an area of concern.

Let’s look at two scenarios, one where we make this rebuild a longer-term project and one where we’re trying to accelerate more rapidly. The idea here is we want good players who can potentially fill that hole no matter what. The former scenario would mean a lower-but-still-significant return during this year’s fire sale, but a longer/larger window. The latter is more likely to put us in “win now” mode as far as contending sooner, but shortens the window.

As far as a longer-term project goes, the guys I’m looking at are prospects who can make the NHL either this year or next, or regulars who are under 25. That’s a relatively slim category, and obviously teams are going to be super reluctant to give up a player like that. But the right deal is the right deal, and circumstantially a trade that benefits both teams can be made.

These trades happen when GMs think it is a good time to shift gears. Here we’d want someone like Conor Timmins from Colorado, given that Cale Makar is also coming up down the road, Erik Brannstrom (Vegas), Adam Boqvist (Chicago), or Timothy Liljegren (Toronto), or absolute best case scenario a massive Miro Heiskanen (Dallas) trade. These would all be difficult to pull off, and I could write probably ten more blog posts about why each team would or wouldn’t do such a thing, but if you can pounce on someone in that range you do it.

Again in all likelihood, none of these guys are available (really stressing that point). However in the off chance that a GM falls asleep, the price for any of these guys would be astronomical. It would likely go beyond the players who have deals expiring in 2020. High picks would need to be included. Probably some of the talent in the prospect pool as well. Have to give to get though, that’s just how it works.

As far as established NHL talent goes, where things become more certain and less of a gamble. The big one here is Jacob Trouba. There’s been friction between him and Winnipeg for a long time, and while they may be looking to keep him now that they’re well into contender status, he may be still on the market. That’s most likely due to the Jets’ impending cap crunch – I shudder to think of Laine’s next contract – because Trouba’s contract is $5.5 million AAV and up at the end of this year.

A sign and trade at this deadline, sending significant depth and a pick or two to True North for Trouba on a long-term deal could be the best way to put a first pair together. Maybe years 6-8 of that contract wouldn’t be great but I’d point out two things: He’s 24, one of the best all around defenders in the NHL, and the cap is only going to go up. Ok that’s three things. Eight years and $9 million per is more than worth it there, at least in my opinion.

Another couple of players to aim for along those lines might be Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Marc Edouard Vlasic, or John Carlson. The trick here is calling up these kinds of teams just as they’re panicking about their futures. John Chayka is a tough GM to read, and the Arizona Coyotes are obviously looking to get it together and contend in the coming years, but they’ve also got youngsters coming up that they’re going to want to rock with forever. They also just signed OEL to a long-term deal and gave him the captaincy, but again, if they’re changing their posture towards a broader perspective and the right deal is there, it’s certainly not totally impossible.  Very unlikely, and it would be insane, but it’d go a long way.

More likely is the San Jose Sharks are going to want to re-sign Erik Karlsson, and obviously they’ll be hoping to have all three of Brent Burns, Karlsson, and Vlasic on the team and go for it all this year/next year. They may also be looking to recharge for the long haul. There could be a deal to be made.

Lastly there’s the Washington Capitals. Again, this is a team that just re-signed their big defenseman to a big contract, but they also just won the Cup and every single player on that roster is going to sit down at the negotiating table looking for a massive contract. That’s the kind of team that suddenly shudders at their big picture outlook and immediately regrets their large free-agent signings, so if there’s teams to take advantage of the Caps might just be on the list.

Let’s go for broke on the trade market and make someone an offer they can’t refuse. The time for a massive package, but one that isn’t going to involve us itching to make the trade at the last minute as with the McDonagh/Miller deal. It could be a deal that, if GMJG plays his cards right, could land that #1 defenseman every team covets and contending teams need.

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    • I would be fine with that, but think it would have to be Zib for Trouba. I am not sure Hayes would resign with Winnepeg after this season

  • This is the one topic that never seems to die. lol

    I really like Trouba, but let’s be clear about something: he’s overrated by many. Now he may be as good as people claim and I coveted him when I saw him play at Michigan, but his NHL stats hasn’t really borne out all the accolades. Yes I know he’s gotten the short end of the stick in Winnipeg playing behind Buf and sometimes Myers, that he hasn’t gotten much PP time, etc. … but those facts work both in favor of believing he has much more to give (offensively) and against him (how would he handle the top defensive responsibilities playing against better players). So there’s some risk in paying him $8-9m and moving quality assets to the Jets (and I think those assets would have to be cost-controlled ones because like Dave said, Laine!).

    So yes, I want him here, but at what price? In my mind anything beyond say a RD like Pionk and a late 1st rounder (if we could get one at the deadline) plus a 2nd or 3rd is too much — not that the Jets would agree with me … and I suspect they could get more from another contender. So I just don’t see it happening.

    Maybe the best way is for us to just be PATIENT and wait to see who hits the UFA market in the next year or two, or to take some risk (with a small r not capital R) in the coming draft (especially if we can accumulate a few more 1st round assets).

    • It is a never ending subject on here cause there are few that believe we need the next brian leetch!

      The subject annoys me. We just had a first tier defensemen on this roster and because we traded his best man and also dumped his long time roomie…. he dogged the season last year.

      Anyone who thinks Mac is worse then Trouba in my opinion is a idiot. And if you ever were going to get Trouba for the sake of youth…mac was the piece to use to get him. But that ship sailed so people need to get over it and let the kids play and see what we got in all these trades.

      I am sure we will end up being pleasantly surprised like we were with Skjei!

    • Agreed tanto. Also like the competition we are having in camp, the D prospects here, and abroad, as well as the new philosophy and culture behind the bench. I will say this about McQuaid, too – he was well respected in Boston, honest in his end, and will stick up for his teammates in less than a heart beat (just ask Cody McLeod – they fought twice in the same game last year and McQuaid rung his bell for a body check to a young Bruin defenseman Grzelcyk). Excited for us – regardless of projections by the pundits – can’t wait to see what kind of start and finish we have this season.

  • Trouba makes a lot of sense. Trading Hayes or Zib for a D man like Trouba also makes a lot of sense for both teams given their needs. There’s been speculation that our management has not been interested in Trouba. That would be a shame.

    Not many teams are going to part with top D men. I’ll be shocked if SJ does not sign Karlsson long term. Even guys like Ekman-Larson aren’t going anywhere on a team that have been pretty bad.

    None of the prospects you mentioned above are being moved. Too much value to give up.

    Adam Fox is still unsigned. And with D men length Carolina is also a good place to go shopping. My preference is Fox becomes a UFA and signs with The Rangers. And that may just happen. Justin Faulk would fit us too. So center for D man +.

    Anaheim is another team that could use a Center and has D man length, but I have a hard time seeing them part with Manson or Mantour of Fowler.

    But trading for elite D talent is going to be very challenging to accomplish.

    • Faulk isn’t the guy and Trouba, to be honest, hasn’t proven that he’s a good #1 yet … so the former isn’t good enough and the latter still needs an opportunity to prove that he is. Mantour, Manson and Fowler also aren’t the answer.

      The best bet is to find a true #1 is either through the draft or free agency, followed by grabbing a young prospect (think Drouin for Sergachev).

      • Agree the draft is the best way to find the elite talent. As for free agency, any suggestions as to which Elite Talent D man will walk into UFA? Because their ain’t a whole lotta options out there. If Karlsson is available great. But again, I won’t be surprised if SJ signs him long term.

        I actually think Trouba for ZIb fits for a lot of reasons. Both have question marks as to their status as #1 D and Center. Both have had injury issues in the past. Zib has a contract for a few more years and Trouba does not.

  • I’m very excited about our defensive prospects – Libor is the real deal and in a couple of years he will shine in the NHL . Yes, I would love to have a Trouba for one or two of our forwards, but please, please, no Faulk!

  • We drafting 2 kids in the first round this year no mention of where they fit or you are not counting on them to be 1st pair material?

  • Trouba’s gotten hurt frequently in the NHL. While healthy he’s shown himself to be a lower-tier first pairing/good 2nd pairing guy. While he’d automatically be the best defenseman on this terrible Ranger defense if he came to NY, it’ll cost way too much to acquire him and keep him long-term. No thanks to Trouba—he might check a lot of boxes in terms of being the right player for the Rangers talent-wise, but the timing of his potential acquisition is wrong for NYR due to his contract situation.

  • Guess no one like Dave’s article, lol.

    I have said my peace about Trouba for 3 years, nothing to add.

  • I think the window to make this kind of deal already passed when we just traded all of our big pieces last deadline. The moment for the “really big deal” was last season when we still had all those impact players.

    This article, to me, shows that after all that trading, and all the “these picks are great talk, you still feel the roster is missing key pieces to move forward with. I 100% agree, and that’s a key reason I was disappointed in the returns we got last year. We gave up a lot (to TB especially) and we’re still struggling to put a blue line together. That is ridiculous to me.

    • In regard to your last point: to be fair, the Rangers struggled to put a legitimate NHL defense on the ice for 82 games last year. The 3rd pair was a mess for most of the year, and once McDonagh was traded they had nobody good besides Skjei back there.

  • “Eight years and 9 million per..” Dave, I think. Someone hacked your password. You have to be shitting us…lmao. Not a rebuild, it’s a road to mediocrity. I’m surprised at you.

  • i agree with joeS. you dont pay a guy like trouba who has had a few questionable years 9 mill per year. that is way to much and especially in a rebuild when we already have many other players that we have to sign next year. he is very overrated and i would rather stick with younger d men for now to see if any pan out and get panarin at the deadline or free agency.

  • I think, if he develops well, that Miller will be an elite NHL defenseman at best a quality second pair defenseman at worst.

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