The acquisition of Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets represents the start of a new era on Broadway. No longer will the Blueshirts be hoping the ping pong balls fall in their direction during the draft lottery. Rather, they are planning to be battling for playoff positioning as the season winds down next spring.
Trouba will immediately become the top-pairing right-handed defenseman in the Rangers lineup.
"He is a big defenseman, he is 25 years old, can play against the best players, has offense, can kill penalties, and is in the prime of his career," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said as he raved about Trouba's skill set Monday night. "The opportunity for a player like that to become available doesn't happen all the time, we jumped on it."
With the second-overall pick and multiple second-round selections in their armory, the Rangers felt the cost of a first-round pick (20th overall, obtained in a mid-season trade involving Kevin Hayes) and Neal Pionk was a price they were able to sacrifice. Additionally, the timing of the trade allows Gorton and his staff to implement their strategy heading into the draft and free agency.
"It just felt like this is going to be a player that's going to be with us for a while," Gorton said. "I hope there are more things out there. There is a lot of talk. There are a lot of ways to improve the team. We are excited as we head to Vancouver (for the NHL Draft)."
With Rangers draft speculation and hype revolving around the top two forward prospects, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the organization shored up its back end and set summer 2019 up as the turning point. The move complements the team's strategy heading into the draft and has the potential to shape the Rangers' approach to an important free agency for the franchise.
"It adds a really nice player to what we are trying to do," Gorton said. "One of the things we wanted to do as we head into the summer is improve our defense and we feel that we have done that today. … I do think it is a good tone-setter and we feel fortunate."
However, this move combined with the acquisition of Adam Fox from the Carolina Hurricanes, does hint at the end of Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo or possibly both. Both players struggle in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill while Trouba and Fox will likely get the first opportunity to quarterback the Rangers power play. And if the Rangers want to attempt to add another top free agent such as Artemi Panarin, the team will need to clear some cap space.
In shaking up the blue line, the Rangers are sending a message to its players, fanbase and division that this will not be another rebuild year.
"The opportunity to get a special player was there for us. Somebody that could walk into our lineup and contribute right away." Gorton said. "It's an opportunity that I felt we had to take.