With all the promise of the young defensemen in the system, and with Tony DeAngelo in line for a big payday before reaching restricted free agency this summer, the Rangers decided to see what they could get for Brady Skjei.
And the club was able to trade the 25-year-old blueliner to the Hurricanes just moments before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, getting a first-round pick in return, pending the trade call.
Skjei has four more years left on his current contract, with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.25 million. The Hurricanes, who are fighting with the Rangers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, somehow found the salary-cap space — even after adding Sami Vatanen from the Devils and his $4.5 million cap hit. Apparently Carolina used some voodoo of long-term injured reserve, with serious injuries to defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, along with goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek.
Skjei was the Rangers first-round pick (No. 28 overall) in 2012, the final first-round pick the Blueshirts had before 2017, when this rebuilding started. He had a terrific rookie year in 2016-17, but the affable Minnesotan had struggled with consistency since then. Partnering this season with childhood friend Jacob Trouba, Skjei’s play still left the Rangers wanting while putting up eight goals and 23 points in 60 games.
Now general manager Jeff Gorton can have long-term discussions with the 24-year-old DeAngelo, who has taken a huge step forward this season while putting up 13 goals and 45 points, the latter good for a tie for sixth-most in the league among defensemen.
The club was also incredibly deep on the left side of defense, including Libor Hajek and Yegor Rykov at AHL Hartford, with K’Andre Miller in college at Wisconsin and Matthew Robertson in juniors at WHL Edmonton.