The New York Rangers must make a decision on defenseman Brady Skjei immediately, or, soon, it’ll be entirely too late.
Defenseman Brady Skjei has been a focal point for the New York Rangers rebuild and general manager Jeff Gorton reiterated that point when he gave Skjei a huge contract extension in July of 2018. The organization felt Skjei was a player the team needed, part of the foundation for years to come.
That was then. This is now.
A decision regarding Skjei’s future is necessary.
Skjei and the Rangers agreed on a six-year, $31.5 million contract. The deal also included a modified no-trade clause from 2020-21 through 2023-24. This means, for the Rangers to trade the defenseman, he would have to submit a 10-team no-trade list, via CapFriendly.
His average salary cap hit is $5.25 million.
The extension came after Skjei’s entry-level contract expired. The contract equaled the league standard of $2.775 million for three years, which broke down to $925,000 per season. The Rangers took about four weeks into the restricted free agent period before the two sides eventually agreed on the new contract.
A points break down
At the time of Skjei’s current contract signing, he had played in 169 NHL games, yet the “future superstar of the NHL” managed to score nine goals with 64 points.
Last season, he finished with a career-high in goals scored with eight and tied his career-high in points with 25.
He might be given a pass for the 2017-18 season when the team was blowing up the lineup and starting over. That season, he was an astonishing -27 in a season he played in all 82 games.
A constant change of defensive partners had Skjei overthinking while attempting to manage the impossible feat that is carrying a poor hockey club after the top players were traded away.
The season to step up
When the summer of 2019 arrived, in came a high school friend who would now stand aside him on the blue line. Jacob Trouba joined the club and the hope was Skjei would find his projected level of play.
The club is still waiting for Skjei to take that next step as the team continues to fall further back from a wild card spot.
Skjei seems to be lacking in the one area that a player of his skill should never lack in the NHL…
At times, he seems to be two or three steps behind whenever the play is in his defensive zone of the ice.
Too many times, as teams are providing pressure and cycling the teams net, the Minnesota native loses his assignment or skates to the wrong area of the ice This often results in an opposing player getting open in the high slot for a great scoring chance.
Offensively, the reports and rumors of a player with the skill of a Brian Leetch or Ryan McDonagh are just that… things written on paper without any real notion attached. Though he has put forth flashes of greatness, it’s happened far and very few between.
This season began with what looked like a solid blue line of Trouba, Skjei, Anthony DeAngelo, Libor Hajek, Marc Staal and Adam Fox. Today, there’s nothing solid about it, as it has been getting ripped to pieces over the last eight games.
Skjei was expected to be one of the guys who can carry the load when times get rough. Instead, his struggles continued which coincides with the team’s struggles over the same period.
With the calendar turning to 2020 in less than a week, John Davidson and Jeff Gorton are going to have to seriously look at what they consider to be the next step in the process of improving the club.
The trade deadline is fast approaching and this will be the last chance to trade the kid before the no-trade is activated.
The Rangers are going to have to make several decisions similar to the Skjei example over the next eight weeks. Chris Kreider, Alexandar Georgiev and Lias Andersson will all be traded in the months ahead based on business points.
The contract might demand a trade
Skjei is in a different category. With four more years left on his contract and over $21 million owed, a trade will not be a simple process to complete.
He is another homegrown Ranger that may be moved. The team’s first-round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he has only played for the Blueshirts.
The Rangers have been waiting for Skjei to take control and carry this team back to the playoffs. They may have already waited long enough.
The rebuild may be over, but every team in the NHL always looks to get better, to improve their chances of getting a shot to get to the postseason.
The Rangers’ chance to improve maybe at the cost of a 25-year-old who never reached his potential in New York City.