The Rangers have made a big splash on the back end, announcing that they have acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Jets. Going the other way is defenseman Neal Pionk as well as the 20th overall pick in this week’s draft which had been previously acquired from Winnipeg as part of the Kevin Hayes trade.
Trouba is coming off a career year that saw him collect 50 points (8-42-50) while averaging just shy of 23 minutes per game in the regular season. Despite that, there was an expectation that a trade was likely. The 25-year-old held out back in 2016 and had requested a trade at that time before rescinding his request when he signed in November. Even with that, it was believed that he remained hesitant to commit to them long-term, especially after he opted to go through the arbitration process last summer.
It will now be up to Rangers GM Jeff Gorton to get Trouba to commit. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes (Twitter link) that Winnipeg did not grant New York permission to speak to the blueliner about a new deal before the trade was made.
Trouba must be tendered a $5.5MM qualifying offer later this month, one that they will clearly make. It will take considerably more for him to forego testing unrestricted free agency in July 2020 so a long-term deal could approach the $7MM-$8MM mark when all is said and done. That’s a price tag that the Rangers are likely willing to pay as he slots in as their top defenseman right away.
As for Pionk, the Jets are adding a capable blueliner but one that doesn’t have a lot of NHL experience. After signing as an undrafted free agent in 2017, he made it to the NHL midway through 2017-18 and played his first full campaign this past season. He fared pretty well, collecting 26 points in 73 games while averaging over 21 minutes a night. That should allow him to step into a prominent role fairly quickly with his new team.
Like Trouba, Pionk is a restricted free agent this summer and is eligible for salary arbitration. Unlike Trouba, he won’t be commanding a massive salary given his relative inexperience. That is notable considering the team still has to sign restricted free agent wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, as well as UFA defenseman Tyler Myers, whose return is much more of a legitimate possibility as a result of this swap. While it wouldn’t be directly tied to this move, Myers could essentially be a part of this trade if he re-signs as it wouldn’t have been possible without Trouba moving first.
With Erik Karlsson and now Trouba off the market (and Myers potentially following suit), the market for right-shot defensemen has drastically been altered in a hurry. With a lack of impact free agent defenders available, expect trade talks to pick up around the league in the coming days.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.