Hockey success was not the biggest reason Jacob Trouba needed to get out of Winnipeg, the newest Ranger said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning.
Rather, the star defenseman, who was traded from Winnipeg to the Rangers on Monday night for defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in Friday’s NHL draft, needed to leave in order to further his fiancée’s career in medicine.
“My fiancée is aspiring to be a doctor and that’s something that’s really important to me,’’ Trouba explained. “I mean, we want to have a life together… and her career is just as important as my career, so this is a pretty good situation for both of us.’’
The 25-year-old Trouba is a restricted free agent and many teams were interested in acquiring his rights. The Rangers were able to make the move by returning the draft pick to Winnipeg that the Jets had traded to them in the Kevin Hayes deal in February and throwing in Pionk, 23, who, like Trouba, is a righthanded-shooting defenseman and a restricted free agent.
Trouba played in all 82 games for Winnipeg in 2018-19 and totaled eight goals, 42 assists and 50 points — career highs in games played, assists and points. He didn’t say much about his contract status with the Rangers, other than he expected talks to pick up over the next few days. “I can see myself being in New York for a long time,” he said.
He also didn’t want to talk about how he might fit into the Rangers lineup, offering only, “I know what I can bring to the table, and I hope to have the opportunity to do that there and do it for a long time.’’
He likely would slot in as the Rangers’ No. 1 defenseman, with fellow right-handers Tony DeAngelo (a restricted free agent), Kevin Shattenkirk and Jericho native Adam Fox lining up behind him. Having earned $5.5 million on a one-year deal last season, Trouba is likely headed north of $7 million per year, for perhaps seven years.
Shattenkirk, 30, is a candidate to be traded or bought out, though on a late conference call Monday night, GM Jeff Gorton claimed he hadn’t thought about whether adding Trouba made him more likely to buy someone out. Shattenkirk, who has two years remaining on a deal that carries an average value of $6.65 million, has struggled with injury and performance in his two seasons with the Rangers.
Brendan Smith, a lefthanded shooter who has two years at $4.35 million per remaining on his deal, is also a candidate to be bought out.
Trouba, a first-round pick by Winnipeg (ninth overall) in 2012, played for the U.S. National Team Development Program and one year at the University of Michigan before signing with Winnipeg and spending his first six seasons there. He is very close friends with Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei and played at Michigan with center Boo Nieves, and he said he talked with Hayes about playing in New York. He also played in Winnipeg with Brendan Lemieux, who was sent to the Rangers as part of the Hayes trade.
Preseason schedule released
The Rangers’ preseason schedule features six games in 11 days, beginning with a home game Sept. 18 against the Devils and ending with a road game against the Islanders in Bridgeport Sept. 28. In between, they have games vs. the Devils at Newark Sept. 20; vs. the Flyers at Philadelphia Sept. 21; home vs. the Islanders Sept. 24 and home vs. the Flyers Sept. 26.