I’m fresh off writing 600ish words about the implications of the Trouba trade regarding the way we look at this Rangers front office, and I spoke mostly in broad strokes about how the Rangers seem to really know what they’re doing after all. I want to highlight one specific facet of that though, something that really comes into high relief when we parse out how it is exactly that Jacob Trouba wound up a New York Ranger. Let’s start from the top, something that you all know by now I’m sure (I almost feel dumb writing it): the Rangers acquired Jacob Trouba in exchange for the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and Neal Pionk.
Ok, yeah, that was dumb, but let’s build the trade tree, ok? Neal Pionk was acquired for nothing, he was an undrafted free agent signing. The 20th overall pick was acquired from … Winnipeg. How did we get that first round pick from Winnipeg? I’m old enough to remember sending Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg for Brendan Lemieux and the 20th overall pick, that’s for sure. How did we get Kevin Hayes then? Hold up … for … nothing?
Yes, you read that right. Lost in the waves and waves of Hayes debate over the years, whether he was used properly or whether he would turn out to be a true 1C or whether his fancy stats made him better than Mika Zibanejad (I guess I was wrong there), is that he too was a college free agent signing. That means, essentially, and I know this sounds insanely dumb, that Jacob Trouba was acquired for nothing. We got him in return for a free thing, and a thing we got in exchange for a free thing. Not a bad bit of business.
So what though, right? I mean how did that happen? It actually wasn’t by accident – whether it’s Jimmy Vesey or Jake Elmer (or John Gilmour, or Mats Zuccarello, or Vinni Lettieri, or Michael Lindqvist, or Ville Meskanen …) the Rangers have not been shy about the way in which they cast a wide net for players not taken in the draft. It’s often just kind of painted over, and understandably so. Out of those names we’ve got two top-line players, plus Jimmy Vesey somewhere below that tier, and then that’s kind of it. Still, the counterpoint to that is usually “asset management! it’s good to cover every angle!”
There usually isn’t much proof to back that up though, because while asset management is good and well in of itself, this game is about practical results, on and off the ice. That means that picking up all these players for free essentially should pay off – what would the point be if literally none of them turned out to be NHLers? There is a point though, and we’re starting to see it. The Rangers traded Mats Zuccarello and got picks. They traded Kevin Hayes and got a good middle-sixer and a pick. They traded that same pick back along with another player they got for nothing, and voila, there’s that young, in his prime, well-rounded top-pairing defenseman we’ve been yearning for all this time. Not bad at all. As I said yesterday, trust the process.