For Brady Skjei, improvement is needed or Seattle may come calling

Brady Skjei may become expansion draft eligible if his play does not improve

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.

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  • I actually tweeted in jest about the Robertson signing that it was partially a subliminal message to skjei to pick it up. (the signing seemed a bit early and also got max elc money)

  • It wouldn’t be that bad if Skjei gets selected by Seattle. It opens up a spot and sheds some Cap space.

  • Great observations, Dave!
    As I read your piece, Michael DelZotto came to mind as a highly touted 1st rounder who eventually settled in as a journeyman 3rd pair defenseman. Based on Skjei’s past 2 years, he is well on his way to following in DelZotto’s footsteps.

    • Well they will need NHL players and they could also use his contract to get to the Cap floor if he doesn’t have a NMC

  • Seattle May take him if the Rangers expose him, it may take including some incentives on Gorton’s part. However, with all the LHD prospects and the way Skjei is playing, there is NO way he gets re-signed especially at a salary increase over this now ridiculous contract.

    And yes, I believe Robertson will play a part in Skjei’s (and Staal’s) departure along with the hopeful progress of Miller, Rykov and Hajek.

  • The snow angel move is amateurish….I would not give Skjei a second contract…he won’t age well, not even Staal level currently.

  • He had a couple of good games in the pre season, but game 1 he was not good and game 2 he was better, but still not real good. I know it’s 2 games into the season, but he can’t seem to get his game together consistently and that is a red flag that keeps waving. He has a good history with Trouba so if he can’t make that work I think we should be concerned. Not sure Seattle would take him on at the the expansion draft without a sweetener to entice them.

    I also think with all the offense on the Right side of our D we need more steady stay at home type to defenders on the left side, who actually defend to balance us out. With Miller and Robertson in the fold, Skjei could be looking at 3rd pair minutes in the next few years. Factor in all the other L D we have and there may simply be no room for him.

    I would prefer he get his game together somewhat and we trade him before we lose him to expansion. Neal Pionk and a First, we acquired from the buyer originally, can bring back Trouba. I would like to think we could get something better than expansion throw away.

    Time will tell

  • Brady S. scares me to the point that I would pay his trip to Seattle……Our D needs more sand paper and less ice cream.

  • Well it’s official. Every defensemen that has ever don a Ranger jersey has been dissed by this blog. I have absolutely no issue with Skjeis game. He has a big body a decent skill set and above average skating . The Rangers could do a lot worse then having Brady in their line up.

  • Hajek not exempt, as is everybody who played in the AHL last year. Lias, Chytil, Day, Ronning, Leedahl along w/ Hajek.

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