Adam Fox making Rangers look smart for dealing Kevin Shattenkirk

Part 6 in a series analyzing the New York Rangers.

How much more needs to be said after typing, “Adam Fox, the 22-year-old rookie out of Harvard, was the best Rangers defenseman this year?”

We can tell you about the Jericho, L.I., native’s uncanny poise and vision on the ice; about his ability to elude hits and move the puck out of trouble, about how he adapted and adjusted in different stages throughout the year as the league adjusted to him.

You also know there were folks who were aghast that the Rangers bought out Kevin Shattenkirk last season — and look, the nearly $6.1 million in dead space the team will be forced to carry next year is a heavy price to pay for excising the New Rochelle native from the roster.

But had management not bought out Shattenkirk, who has enjoyed a revival in Tampa Bay, there would have been no room for one of either Fox or Tony DeAngelo on the right side of the blue line. The Blueshirts would have had Jacob Trouba, Shattenkirk and, presumably, one or the other of Fox and DeAngelo.

Which means the team would not have had either the league’s fourth-highest scoring defenseman (DeAngelo, 53 points) or the 15th (Fox, 42 points). And no, I do not think coach David Quinn would have moved DeAngelo to the left last season. Of course if the coach had done that, that probably would have meant a year at Hartford for lefty Ryan Lindgren.

General manager Jeff Gorton acted decisively in acquiring Fox from the Hurricanes last April in exchange for a 2019 second-rounder and a 2020 third, though the defenseman was on track to become a free agent this coming summer and all but assuredly would have signed with the Rangers.

The GM could have waited, could have played this out, could have kept Shattenkirk and addressed the cap squeeze in a different manner. But he did not. He went for it. The truth is, the Rangers had attempted to get Fox a year earlier from the Flames at the 2018 draft but could not come up with an offer that forestalled Calgary from sending the righty to the Hurricanes as part of the Noah Hannifin for Dougie Hamilton exchange.

Fox was selected 66th overall in 2016 by Calgary in the draft in which the Blueshirts did not have a selection until 81st overall after having traded their first (for Keith Yandle) and second (for Eric Staal). The team used that third-round pick on defenseman Sean Day, who remains in the organization, but isn’t likely to make it to the Garden.

Nevertheless, the Rangers could have three defensemen from that 2016 draft in the lineup next season: Fox; Lindgren, selected 49th overall by the Bruins and acquired in the 2018 deadline deal for Rick Nash; and Libor Hajek, selected 37th overall by the Lightning and acquired that same day in the trade for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.

Not too bad.

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All right, Fox and Lindgren, just like love and marriage. You can’t have one without the other. (Those are the lyrics to the tune, not social commentary). Fox sneezes, and you say gesundheit to Lindgren.

The matched set played together for the Team USA Under-18’s in 2016, they were intact as a pair for the Yanks in the both the 2017 and 2018 World Juniors, and they were essentially inseparable this season, logging 674:34 after Lindgren was summoned from the AHL Wolf Pack in late October.

Indeed, after Fox opened the year on Hajek’s right for Game 1 and then spent four games with Brady Skjei and four with Marc Staal, he was paired with Lindgren for 56 of the remaining 60 games following his partner’s recall for Game 10. The 22-year-olds, who form a classic contrast in styles, actually emerged as Quinn’s first-pair matchup unit as the season evolved.

Fox makes plays out of nothing. He turns it around quickly and precisely on transition. He’s got an active stick and he improved on his reads and coverage as the season progressed. He was on for 63 Rangers goals at five-on-five, second on the team to only Artemi Panarin, who was on for 75. And the Jericho native rang up his impressive offensive numbers despite being on the second power-play unit much of the season behind DeAngelo.

The Rangers have had 16 Ivy Leaguers suit up for them, with Syl Apps Jr. the first in 1970-71 after having played for Princeton. That total includes Cornell’s David LeNeveu, who dressed as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup for the 2014 Cup Final but never played a minute. From Harvard, there have been Ted Donato, Dom Moore and Jimmy Vesey. And there is the Rangers’ No. 1 right defenseman.

By the name of F-O-X, as Tom Hanks might say to Meg Ryan.

Adam Fox

Position: Defenseman
Age: 22
Contract status: First year of three-year entry level contract with annual cap hit of $925,000.
2019-20 stats: 8 goals, 34 assists, 42 points in 70 games.

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