With Jacob Trouba trade rumors in full swing, it’s natural that we also start looking for Trouba replacements and potential Rangers free agent targets. Assuming there’s a trade and the Rangers are free of the entire $8 million salary, the Rangers will be swift in addressing their pretty significant blue line needs, likely through free agency. That’s where Sean Walker’s name has come up, as a potential Rangers free agent target.

Aside: This was going to be a piece on Matt Roy until someone replied to me on Twitter mentioning Sean Walker. I have since pivoted this piece to Walker. Matt Roy will get his own piece soon enough.

Walker’s production isn’t stellar, but he’s good for 5 goals and 20 points if fully healthy. It may not seem like much, but it’s the other aspects of his game that draw attention. Walker doesn’t need powerplay time–not should he get any on this roster–to boost stats, yet is a solid offensive play driver and puck mover. We’ve established the Rangers desperately need help moving the puck up the ice. Walker addresses this in spades.

Beyond the numbers, Walker is a mobile puck moving defenseman, something the Rangers desperately need. Walker’s strengths are similar to that of Anton Stralman from way back when, with strong instincts in all three zones, strong two-way play, and a shiftiness that helps him move the puck in tight spaces. It’s hard not to view him as an upgrade on guys like Trouba and Erik Gustafsson.

An unrestricted free agent, Walker is likely to get around 5-6 years and $5 million annually per Evolving-Hockey’s contract estimator. Assuming the Rangers are able to shed Trouba’s $8 million, they’d have plenty of space to sign Walker to that kind of contract. The risk would be in term, not dollars, as Walker is turning 30 in November.

There’s a strong argument that this money should be reserved for a 2RW, which is certainly fair. There’s also a strong argument that getting actual puck movers who can get the Rangers out of their own zone–where they struggled against Carolina and Florida–will actually address more than a 2RW will. In theory, replacing Gustafsson and Trouba with Jones and Walker would be a significant upgrade and address multiple roster issues.

We will need to see how the draft goes, who the Rangers trade out, and who comes in via these trades, if they do occur. It’s certainly possible the Rangers look to add a 2RW via trade (Kaapo Kakko) and address defense via free agency. Or vice versa. Of the possible Rangers free agent targets, Walker fits the bill in both need and affordability.

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