On what we thought would be a lazy Friday, the Rangers surprised us with a 4pm signing of Jacob Trouba. The contract was for seven years and $8 million. Trouba is currently 25 years old, and will turn 26 in February of the upcoming season. The contract avoids arbitration and locks up Trouba until he is 32 years old. It comes with a full NMC in years 2-5 and a limited NTC in the last two years. There is no protection this year, as he’s still a RFA and couldn’t negotiate for it in his first year. As usual, I have some thoughts.
1. Given the fact that we are Ranger fans, it is ok to be gun shy about big contracts. That is $19.5 million given to Trouba and Artemi Panarin. The Blueshirts don’t fare so well with these kinds of contracts, even when it’s their own RFAs on defense. Their history is littered with Marc Staal’s, Dan Girardi’s, Wade Redden’s, Brendan Smith’s, etc etc etc. You get where I’m going. It’s ok to be gun shy here.
2. The big difference is that Trouba is a bonafide 1RD, and you give big money to your big players. Staal, Girardi, etc were never top pairing defensemen, even when we thought they were (Henrik Lundqvist hid most of the issues for quite some time). They were all bottom-four at best defensemen, and those are the contracts that get you into trouble. Spending big on your stars is not the issue. It’s spending big on depth. If the Rangers didn’t have big money tied into middle-roster players, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
3. One last bit on the contract, and I keep reiterating this, is that it’s better to spend on your stars than to spend on your depth. Depth is interchangeable and you can find replacements, even if there are emotions involved with some of the players. The good thing here is that the Rangers are now limited in what they can spend on their middle roster players in free agency going forward. This was their big splash with Panarin and Trouba, and now they don’t have the maneuverability to sign some middle-six forward or middle-pair defenseman to $6 million a year. We don’t need to worry about having an Andrew Ladd contract.
4. Even with Panarin and Trouba and all the kids, the Rangers are still in a rebuild. Panarin and Trouba add about six wins to the Rangers this season, which probably keeps them out of the playoffs. Of course that model doesn’t account for Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, or Adam Fox, but expecting them to be the catalysts to get into the playoffs is unfair. At best, the Rangers are still fighting for a playoff spot, and may finish in the bottom-ten again. That’s fine.
5. So why trade for Trouba and sign Panarin? When is the next chance the Rangers are going to get two players of that magnitude for the price of a first round pick, a negative asset on defense, and cap space? Probably never. You shoot your shot now, especially when they are both multiple years away from the dreaded 30 years old. Panarin’s deal won’t end until he’s 34, and yea those last 2-3 years might be bad. Trouba’s deal ends when he’s 32. It’s not like we are getting these guys until they are 38 years old.
6. I think I’ve spent enough time trying to talk people off the ledge who are worried about having two players for seven years and $19.5 million on the books. But one last thing: The Rangers will have over $20 million coming off the cap after the 2020-2021 season, which is right when players like Libor Hajek, Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, and Brett Howden will need new deals. That doesn’t necessarily concern me. The only concern is tying up cap space into more buyouts on defense, which may be unavoidable.
7. It’s been an exciting and scary offseason. The Rangers may not do much better in the standings, but they are certainly going to be a much more fun team to watch. It’s going to be a lot of goals for and against. I hope you’re ready for it."Thoughts following the Jacob Trouba contract",