The Rangers moved to accelerate their rebuild Tuesday when they acquired unsigned defenseman Adam Fox, a Jericho native, from the Hurricanes in exchange for two draft picks — a second-round pick this summer and a conditional third-rounder in 2020.
“He’s a highly skilled player, a righthanded defenseman who can really move the puck and can run a power play,’’ Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said of Fox, a 5-11, 195-pounder who is turning pro after playing three years at Harvard.
Gorton said he is currently negotiating an entry-level contract with Fox, who will be at training camp in the fall. Gorton said he expects Fox will have a good chance to make the Rangers.
“Yes, I think so. That’s the way we’re approaching it,’’ he said.
Fox will be joining Team USA for the World Championships, which begin Sunday in Slovakia. He will join Jack Hughes, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft, and future Rangers teammates Brady Skjei and Chris Kreider. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is playing for Sweden in the championships.
Gorton was asked if the move to acquire Fox, 21, is a signal that the Rangers have reached the point where they believe it is time to speed up their rebuild. They have spent the last two NHL trade deadlines trading veteran players to acquire young prospects and draft picks. They had a team-record 10 picks in the 2018 draft. They had 10 in the 2019 draft before trading their second-round pick for Fox.
“I don’t know if it’s a change,’’ Gorton said. “It’s an acceleration in the fact that we moved a couple of draft picks for a player who’s older than 18. But he’s still only 21 — just turned 21 [in February]. This is a player that really fits into what we’re trying to do to move forward.’’
Fox was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award — given to the best player in college hockey — after scoring nine goals and adding 39 assists in 33 games for Harvard this season. He was a first-team All America selection.
Fox played on the U.S. team that captured the gold medal at the 2017 World Junior Championships, where he was teammates with fellow Long Islanders Charlie McAvoy (currently with the Bruins) and Jeremy Bracco (currently with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies), and also played on the U.S. team that won bronze at the 2018 World Juniors.
Originally drafted by the Flames 66th overall in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Fox was traded to the Hurricanes at last summer’s draft, along with Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Had he returned to Harvard for his senior year, he could have exercised his right to become a free agent next summer, but instead, Fox reportedly informed the Hurricanes he would not sign with them, and thus Carolina was forced to trade his rights.
Coming to camp with the Rangers this fall, Fox will join a group of young defensemen in the system who will be challenging for a spot on the team. Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren, both acquired at the trade deadline in 2018, each played a handful of games with the Rangers last season and will be looking to make the team full-time this fall.
Fox also joins a group of righthanded, offensive-minded defensemen that includes veteran Kevin Shattenkirk and 23-year-olds Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo.