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The Hudson River Rivalry, Rangers and Devils Prepare for Heated Rivalry

The New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils came out of the NHL Draft with better rosters than they had before by trading for All-Star defensemen. So the question is, how will Jacob Trouba fit in to the Rangers long-term goals and will P.K. Subban turn the Devils into contenders?

The Hudson River Rivalry will return to its former glory in the 2019-20 National Hockey League (NHL) season. Both the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers made huge trades that could alter their franchise’s future. The Rangers made a big splash when they traded Neal Pionk and the number 20 pick in this year’s draft to the Winnipeg Jets for one of their best defensemen, Jacob Trouba.

On the west side of the Hudson River, the Devils front office was eager to exchange some of their ten draft picks in this year’s draft for a great player. During the second-round of the draft the Devils made their move. New Jersey traded Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies and the 2019 and 2020 second-round picks to the Nashville Predators for one of the league’s most feared power-play threats from the point, P.K. Subban. 

So why did the Devils Trade for Subban?

The Devils are coming off a let-down season where they went from making the playoffs in 2017-18 to finishing 29th of 31 NHL teams last year. The Devils are looking to rebound next year with an influx of talent that includes the recently acquired P.K. Subban and number one overall pick Jack Hughes.

The Devils went into this year’s draft with ten selections. It was clear that general manager Ray Shero was going to try and leverage some of those picks for a great player and that is exactly what he did. Subban is one of the NHL’s best defenseman, with size, speed and a great shot from the point, Subban could have a great impact in New Jersey. From Nashville’s perspective, they needed to unload three years and $ 9 million of Subban’s salary and the Devils had the cap-room to take him.

Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy two seasons ago. If he can stay healthy, he will be one of the Eastern Conference’s best offensive players. Still, Hall cannot provide the emotional spark and enthusiasm that Subban can provide. Subban has been a leader on every NHL team he has played for. He was called up to the Canadiens in the playoffs of 2010. In 2014 he became an alternate captain of an original-six franchise. He played six seasons in Montreal—for one of the league’s most storied franchises—so I think he has experience playing under pressure. Also, Subban played the last three years for the Nashville Predators, who made it to the finals in 2017. Subban has plenty of experience playing for teams that are expected to win.

How close are the Rangers?

The Rangers fans may not be expecting much going into next year, but Head Coach David Quinn and Team President John Davidson have already begun molding the Rangers core of young players.

One week before the NHL Draft, the Rangers were searching for ways to improve their team. Just a week ago the Rangers traded defenseman Neal Pionk and the no. 20 pick in the draft (that they had got from Winnipeg) for Jacob Trouba, who had his best statistical season (50 points, 22:53 Time-on-Ice) last year. Furthermore, Trouba comes from a team that has been to a conference final and made two straight playoff appearances in the Winnipeg Jets. The 25-year-old defenseman has played with three Rangers players before, which must have factored in heavily into the decision to bring him to New York. Trouba played with Brady Skjei in the U.S. National Team Development Program for two years before he went to college at the University of Michigan, where he played with Boo Nieves and finally with Brendan Lemieux for the past two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.

Here are the pros of the Trouba trade; It takes pressure off Brady Skjei to be the team’s best two-way defenseman every night. Now the Rangers can deploy Trouba to neutralize some of the Metropolitan division’s top scorers, like Taylor Hall. Secondly, the Rangers are building a core of young forwards, like Filip Chytil, who are maturing. Wing Pavel Buchnevich scored 21 goals last year and looks like he can take his game to another level. Center Mika Zibanejad stayed healthy last year and became the complete center that the Rangers have needed.

In the pipeline is a 23-year-old goaltender named Igor Shesterkin, who has been a standout in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Shesterkin went 24-4 for St. Petersburg SKA, with a sparkling 1.11 goals-against-average. Wait there is more. The Rangers have been grooming forward Vitali Kravtsov who they drafted ninth-overall last season.

 The 19-year-old scored two goals and four assists for Russia at the under-20 world junior championships. He is 6’3 and is yet another big body that the Rangers have drafted in the past two years.

So now the Rangers have all the tools they need to complete the rebuild. The question is, how will they configure their defense, which will not want to alienate the dwindling Kevin Shattenkirk while Trouba and Skjei emerge as the leaders on the Ranger blue-line. Will Mika Zibanejad solidify himself as the Rangers most productive center? Will the second year be the charm for Filip Chytil and Pavel Buchnevich, who the Rangers will rely upon for scoring next season. One thing is certain, and that is that the Rangers organization has gone out and got the young players to build a good team around.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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