During the 2019 NHL trade deadline, the Rangers made a move out of the blue when they traded defenseman Brady Skjei to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 1st round pick. At the time, Manhatten was happy that they got rid of a player making north of $5 million against the cap per year who blatantly wasn’t worth it and had significant term left for a 1st rounder, but as time has shown, maybe the Canes knew what they were doing.
Skjei has started to become such an integral part of the back end of one of the best teams in the NHL and a team that is currently better in the standings than the Rangers themselves. Not to mention, Skjei’s offensive outburst this season has helped Carolina ice the highest-scoring defensive core in hockey. With 6 games remaining for the Canes, there’s a chance he could increase his stats even more.
Skjei has put up 17 goals and 17 assists in a career year in Raleigh and has really rubbed the Rangers’ nose in what he could have done. He’s currently tied for 4th among Carolina’s goal scorers and tied for 8th in straight-up points. Considering this is a 2nd pairing defenseman for the Rangers Metropolitan Division rivals, he’s had a season that every Blueshirts fan wished he would have up here in New York.
New York had been looking for a left-shot defenseman to fill out the top 6 all season until they picked up Niko Mikkola at the trade deadline. Mikkola has been a great addition to strengthen a team that needed the help, but it has raised the question of whether holding onto Skjei would have made the need for a left-sided defenseman to help out on the third pairing obsolete.
Truthfully, I doubt it. Skjei was never the physical defenseman the Rangers needed. He is a puck mover that has some defensive warts that the Carolina system covers. In New York, Skjei’s issues seemed like they would never change and even now the Blueshirts have proven they can find success without him. Playing the way they did in order to get the high draft picks that have become so important in supplementing the bottom six wouldn’t have been possible.
For those wondering, the pick the Rangers got from Carolina became Hendrix Lapierre. If you’re wondering “Who is that?” it’s okay, the Rangers traded up from 22nd to 19th where they would take defenseman Braden Schneider. They are in a better position because they made the move they did, and you just have to be happy that a former Ranger is finding success in his new home.