The New York Rangers sped up their rebuilding effort Monday by acquiring offensive-minded defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets.
New York sent young defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the draft to Winnipeg for Trouba. The 25-year-old gives the rebuilding Rangers a legitimate top-pairing blue liner to help their climb back toward being playoff contenders.
Trouba is a restricted free agent who needs a new contract, which shouldn’t be a problem for the Rangers. The Jets traded Trouba, in part, because they face a salary-cap crunch and also because they weren’t going to sign him to a long-term deal.
”We just felt it was best to open up the door to the possibility of trading him,” Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said on a conference call Monday night. ”He’s someone we saw grow and develop. He’s played hard for our organization for a period of six years.”
Trouba has 179 points in 408 regular-season NHL games. Last season, the right-handed shooter had eight goals and 42 assists for 50 points.
Winnipeg still needs to get new contracts done for star wingers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and Cheveldayoff acknowledged, ”There’s no question we have a challenging summer still ahead of us.”
The Rangers’ summer should be more about adding, given their heavy quantity of salary-cap space. They’ll spend more on Trouba than Pionk, who’s also a restricted free agent, but can continue to be active in trade talks and free agency.
”It’s jumping on things at the right time, it’s being patient, seeing what opportunities arise,” Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said recently. ”We’re going to do this the right way and make good decisions.”
Pionk, 23, had six goals and 20 assists last season with New York in his second NHL season.
”He’s a young player that we believe has upside that is going to continue to grow,” Cheveldayoff said. ”He’s someone that we think, given the group of players that we have in our organization from our forward standpoint, that he’s going to complement very, very well.”
The 20th overall pick was originally the Jets’ pick they sent to the Rangers at the trade deadline for center Kevin Hayes. Winnipeg traded Hayes’ negotiating rights to Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick.
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