Why moving on from Jacob Trouba could be Rangers option

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one thing their Game 6 loss to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final did, it’s added intrigue to the New York Rangers offseason.

All teams change from season to season. But when a team with Stanley Cup aspirations — and really, it was boom or bust for this group that won 55 games and the Presidents’ Trophy — doesn’t reach its final goal, executives look inward into what went wrong and how to address those errors.

A lot has been written about this core Rangers group that has been together since the 2019-20 season. It’s now on its third coach and appears the time for the players to look in the mirror has arrived.

Taking the approach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and running things back again is a foolish exercise, and one Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury is unlikely to subscribe to.

So where does it begin? Well, right near the top with captain Jacob Trouba.

Of all the “core” pieces on the roster, Trouba is the most likely and easiest to move. There’s no doubt his value to the team is felt more away from the ice. Players and staff speak highly of the 30-year-old, who is accountable with the media and is a strong liaison between the room and the coaching staff. He won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award this season, and that means something. He’s also a warrior on the ice, and one of the few physical players the Rangers have.

But Trouba, who said he broke his ankle towards the end of the season but played all 16 STanley Cup Playoff games, is a player where both the numbers and eye test line up, and simply put, this postseason was a difficult one for Trouba.

He was on the ice for 17 of the 35 goals the Rangers surrendered over the final two series against Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers. The lasting moment of his playoff will certainly be him taking himself out of position to attempt a hit on Evan Rodrigues — who didn’t have the puck — on Florida’s first goal in Game 6.

Trouba led all players with 11 penalties in the postseason. And while Trouba is nothing if not physical, many of these were desperation plays after he was beaten either off the rush or in a board battle. His footspeed was never a strength, but it looks like the miles are beginning to catch up.

The veteran finished the playoffs on the third pair alongside Erik Gustaffson. That move was likely equal parts Trouba’s shortcomings and Braden Schneider elevating his game during the tournament. The writing is on the wall that Schneider’s time playing sheltered, bottom-pair minutes is over and he’s ready for an increased role.

Translated, that means Trouba’s spot on the middle pair with K’Andre Miller will soon be Schneider’s.

Related: Kaapo Kakko future with Rangers big offseason question

Rangers could trade or buy out Jacob Trouba this summer

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Trouba is entering the final two seasons of his contract that pays him $8 million annually. The difference now, though, is his full no-movement clause turns into a modified no-trade. The blueliner can submit a list of 15 teams he’d block a trade to, leaving 16 other clubs Drury can work with. Of course, the Rangers likely would have to eat some of his salary in any possible deal.

As stated, Trouba’s ceiling on this team now appears to be on the bottom pair. Find another Stanley Cup contender paying its third-pair defenseman $8 million. We’ll wait.

Drury also has the option of buying Trouba out at a fairly palatable figure. The club would save $4 million against the salary cap over the next two years before having $2 million in dead space the two seasons after. While not ideal, it certainly isn’t an anchor for the club, especially with the salary cap rising this summer and continuing to do so for years to come.

And, listen, the Rangers need some extra money with a massive Igor Shesterkin contract extension on the horizon, and a right wing and Trouba replacement among their needs.

It’s difficult to deny Trouba’s role as a member of the team’s core. But after a third straight series elimination in which his team was badly outplayed, Drury must know it’s likely time to shake up the mix.

Matt Calamia spent six seasons as a digital content producer and writer for the New York Rangers. Prior to... More about Matt Calamia

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