Rangers’ scratch defenseman could replace the team captain in 2024

Mar 16, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) passes the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at PPG Paints Arena. New York won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have a Jacob Trouba problem. Trouba, the team’s captain since 2022, struggled so badly during the postseason that he began to receive the “liability” label.

Trouba was on the ice for 17 of the 35 goals the Rangers allowed in the final two rounds of the playoffs against Carolina and Florida while leading the league with 11 penalties, per Vince Mercogliano of Lohud.

The Blueshirts have to feel uneasy about relying on Trouba heading into the 2024 season. As speculation over a buyout grows, the Rangers can look to their bench for a potential Trouba replacement for next season.

The Rangers could give Zac Jones a chance in 2024

Zac Jones, new york rangers

Rather than banking on Trouba to turn things around next season, the Blueshirts could pivot to Zac Jones, one of the top healthy scratches on their bench. Jones saw a fair share of playing time in the NHL last season, but he was still unable to earn a full-time starting role.

In the 2023-24 season, Jones played in 31 games for the Blueshirts, totaling nine points (two goals and seven assists) with a +/- rating of +1. A third-round pick in 2019, Jones is 23 years old and primed for a breakout with increased playing time in the 2024-25 season.

Jones is a 5-foot-10, 179-pound defenseman who skates well and provides a spark on the offensive end. He totaled 31 points in 54 games played with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the 2022-23 season. The Rangers will hope to see Jones provide a similar spark in their defensive pairings next season.

What does the future hold for Jacob Trouba?

New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center
Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Trouba’s future on Broadway has gotten murky. This past season ended in disappointment for the Rangers, but for Trouba, it was an entire season of disappointment. He saw his point total fall to 22, playing in just 69 games and recording a -4 rating while dealing with injuries throughout the course of the regular season.

With $12 million left on Trouba’s base salary, a buyout could become an option this offseason. According to CapFriendly, buying out Trouba would produce $4 million in total savings for the Rangers this season. Those wages could be reinvested into the defensive core or utilized to sign a first-line right wing.

If the Rangers were to buy out Trouba, that would pave the way for Jones to become a regular in the lineup and ultimately replace the team captain as one of the top defensemen on the squad.

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