This post is admittedly about a year and a half early, but hey would we be BSB if we weren’t ahead of the curve?
Brady Skjei is an interesting player for the Rangers. Taken in the first round in 2012, Skjei broke through with the Rangers in the 2016-2017 season with a fantastic rookie season (5-34-39). He put up 4-21-25 the following season, and then immediately signed a six-year, $5.25 million contract. He struggled the season before signing it, and struggled the first season into it –last season– with an 8-17-25 line. With an improved right side of the blue line, Skjei is expected to get back to being a steady presence on the left side.
The offensive numbers seem fine, especially since his rookie season numbers were padded by powerplay usage, it’s the play in his own end that has left something wanting, even becoming a healthy scratch for a few games last season. His play didn’t really improve much last season, and he was the worst blue liner in terms of xGF% last season in the non-Neal Pionk division. It doesn’t take numbers to see that Skjei has struggled mightily in his own end. He seems a little more jumpy with the puck, and he also has a bad snow angel habit that has been tough to break.
Rob unpacked Skjei’s career arc masterfully last March, and not much has changed since then. After all, it’s been just two games this season. Skjei’s production and effectiveness has seemed to fall as the Rangers got worse and worse. Again this is rather expected, but this isn’t about his past performance, it’s about how he needs to perform going forward. As Rob pointed out in his post, Skjei seems to play better with better partners, and he now has Jacob Trouba, whom he will likely play most of the season with, in the mix.
The Rangers have committed a large amount of money and contract length to Skjei, so he’s certainly part of their future plans. After all, he’s here for at least this season and next before the Seattle expansion draft kicks in. But that’s where things get interesting.
From a pure expansion draft standpoint, the Rangers will protect Trouba, and Skjei is the only defenseman currently signed through the expansion draft that needs protecting (I believe Adam Fox and Libor Hajek will be exempt). Tony DeAngelo may be re-signed and protected. The Blueshirts will also add a few expansion fodder bodies this summer. So when it comes to a pure expansion standpoint, Skjei is likely to be forced to be exposed.
However let’s look at the future. We’ve already speculated that DeAngelo’s future on Broadway may be in doubt because of Trouba, Fox, and eventually Nils Lundkvist. Skjei has the benefit of the long-term deal, but has Hajek already in the NHL, with Ryan Lindgren and Joey Keane in the AHL. Then there’s Tarmo Reunanen and Matt Robertson already on ELCs and coming with a lot of hype. There’s also K’Andre Miller. And those are just the guys with hype.
And that brings us back to Skjei – his contract may be guaranteed, but his status with the Rangers is not unless he improves. Committing $5.25 million to a defenseman that can’t turn it around with the likes of Trouba is not going to be a prudent investment going forward.
As mentioned to start this post, we are at least 18 months away from this becoming an issue and something that the Blueshirts seriously consider. After all, it’s been just two games this season, and the blue line is going to be a jigsaw puzzle for quite some time this year. There’s also the Lindy Ruff factor. There’s a lot that would need to go wrong for Skjei to be Seattle bound, but it’s also a non-zero chance this happens. Unthinkable last season, to at the very least possible in just 12 months.