On June 17, 2019, Jacob Trouba was traded for Neal Pionk and a 2019 first-round pick, 20th overall. After what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said was a “bidding war” it seems the master tactician has found something he likes. The first-round pick involved with the trade is the same pick the Winnipeg Jets used to acquire Kevin Hayes at the trade deadline.
The Rangers get what they paid for — a top pairing defender with an edge. He’s a fluid skater, takes care of the front of his net exceptionally well and rushes the puck with ease out of his own zone. He owns a bomb of a shot that he certainly could afford to utilize more, but not doing so hasn’t hampered his offensive output. His possession of a high-end hockey IQ makes it seem like he doesn’t have to put any effort into his game.
Trouba just came off of a career year, looking to get paid in the offseason. The Jets became wedged between a rock and hard place with other players like Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine looking for new contracts also. The Jets have a little more than $25 million in cap space, however there were rumours that Trouba was looking for a new deal in the vicinity of $7 million annually. With Connor and Laine looking for their new deals, I suspect it became increasingly harder for the Jets to try and work out affordable situations for all of these young stars.
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Neal is no slouch. He’s a reliable, two-way, puck moving d-man who makes wise choices with his puck movement. His mindset has always been towards producing offense, but since turning pro he has learned to become more aware of situations in his own end. Neal is also a defenseman that could afford to shoot the puck more — he is quite capable of scoring from long ways out. He isn’t as physical as Trouba, but is not afraid to get involved physically.
The Rangers were -45 in their goal differential and 26 points as a second-year d-man on a team that is struggling to produce any sort of offense is nothing to sniff at. Neal has proven time and time again that he’s a player who can produce. His move to the Jets is going to make those numbers increase simply by proxy. Having a talented roster in Winnipeg gives Neal a more-than-adequate chance to pump up those numbers.
Being able to re-obtain a pick that gets a team into the top 20 is never easy to do. I can’t say for sure what the Jets intentions are with the 20th overall pick but I suspect they really like a player in that range and they stand pat.
Ultimately, this trade is a hard pill to swallow for the Jets. Trouba is a quality d-man with a lot to offer. The Rangers get a first pairing d-man who is only 25. But, I won’t knock Neal’s game either. He is a top four d-man on any NHL team, a quality puck mover, possesses great vision and on a team like the Jets, he’s just another offensive weapon in their already impressive arsenal. Obtaining a first-round pick is also never a negative thing.
As hard as it may be for some people to realize now, this is a fair trade. It fits both teams’ needs exceptionally well. The Jets relieve some cap woes while staying a very competitive team and the Rangers get their number one d-man and someone they can really build their blueline around.
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