Trouba Troopas

Being a Winnipeg Jets fan is the closest thing to an instant drama button there is in hockey. Whether its tracksuits being thrown in showers or a burgeoning star of a young defenseman holding out from training camp, the fun never ends. I’m going to be blunt; the situation with Jacob Trouba is pretty bad, and this one falls on Chevy. Somewhere along the way, the contract negotiations nose-dived into oblivion and never recovered. With the aftermath of the blast, what’s left to salvage of the situation?

The “Trade Trouba” Scenario

Most Jets fans are in Camp A, which is trading Trouba away. A lot of them don’t seem to realize that Trouba is the best blueliner on the team, and that losing him will have catastrophic consequences for the team going down the road. All that said, it’s clear Jets fans have made Jake (from State Farm) their new villain. Public pressure is mounting for a trade, and it seems as though both sides of the negotiations have been trying to work on such a scenario since May.

There are very few teams that can afford to acquire Trouba’s rights. Boston and Edmonton are both in need of a top-pairing young defenseman, but only the Oilers possess the prospects and players to make a deal. New Jersey is in the same boat with Boston; needy, but deprived of anything of value to trade. The Hall-for-Larsson deal (I still laugh about it) set the market for Pete Chiarelli’s prices for top-4 blueliners, so Trouba is going to come at a premium. The package I personally like is some combination of Nugent-Hopkins and Davidson or Nurse.

Before you lose your composure and tell me Nurse is terrible, I know. A number of NHL GMs, however, don’t agree with that assessment. While they don’t seem to like him as much as Oilers fans, there’s opportunity here. If Chevy can work out a 3-way trade, he could stand to come away with immediate help for the LHD corps, good prospects, or useful picks. Any combination of those would be a win in this situation. The important thing is for management to make value where others see none. That’s how you exploit market inefficiencies, and the NHL is full of these opportunities.

A Nugent-Hopkins/Davidson package is a lot more straight-forward. Davidson is likely a solid bottom-4 defenseman for the left side. He’d easily slot in over someone like Chiarot, but probably wouldn’t jump over Enstrom. That would leave the last space for Morrissey, which should be granted without hesitation over Mark Stuart or Brian Strait. Whether the coaching staff agrees with me is a question for another day.

As you might have guessed, my primary target here is Nugent-Hopkins. Oilers fans are adamant that he’s not getting traded, but here’s the rub; Edmonton is relatively rich at centre, but not at defense. Something’s gotta give, and a $6 million 3rd-line centre is quite pricey to be getting fewer minutes. Draisaitl is ready for 2nd line duty now, not in the future. That makes Nugent-Hopkins a slightly more expendable asset. To be clear, he’s a great player that deserves top-6 minutes. Edmonton, however, would make better use of his cap space with a skilled young defenseman (hello Jacob Trouba).

Outside of Edmonton, the only other team with the assets to make this deal happen is Toronto. The Leafs have a bevy of talented forward prospects to surrender. The crappy thing for them is that Winnipeg wants a quality LHD, and that’s not happening in a trade with Toronto. Arizona has Ekman-Larsson, but they’d be nuts to move him for Trouba. Oliver is a proven franchise talent under contract, and trading him for the rights to negotiate with Trouba is completely unrealistic.

The “Keep Trouba” Scenario

Camp B is a lot harder to figure out. Many have compared this to the Drouin situation in Tampa, but Drouin was under contract. Trouba is not, and that makes the situation a lot more complicated. Any team that wants to acquire him is only trading for his rights and the chance to negotiate a contract. Letting Trouba sit for some time really doesn’t help either side. The Jets need Jacob in the line-up, now and in the future. Jacob needs the Jets to get continued ice-time.

My happiest scenario is that Winnipeg hammers out a deal with Trouba and moves Myers. This will open up a top-4 spot on the right side and drop Trouba’s anchor of a partner. It also gets Myers on to better things. While Tyler was an important part of the 2015 playoff push, he’s since regressed to Buffalo-era defensive metrics. The Jets can’t afford  to have him struggle again, especially if he’s paired with someone like Chiarot.

The dream scenario is just that; a beautiful dream that’s increasingly unlikely. The longer Trouba sits, the higher his chances of getting moved. I would hate to see Jake go as the Jets have no immediate replacements for him. Winnipeg would also be losing a defenseman formerly considered a cornerstone piece of the franchise. That reflects poorly on management’s handling of the prospect pipeline, and the Jets have very little operating capital to attract talent.

The Bottom Line

This whole situation sucks. Secretly, we all knew it would probably come to this. The radio silence from Cheveldayoff and the rest of management was hardly reassuring. Trouba is a top-pairing talent, and he knows it. While I think he’s made a mess of his situation by going public, he’s certainly not the only one at fault. Winnipeg’s management needs to find a way to keep Trouba, and they haven’t made any indication of doing so. You have to wonder what the newest prospects think of this. Do they see a team ready for future playoff contention, or do they see a talented crop of players being mishandled by a cagey management team?

The next few weeks are going to be critical. The Jets love to make things interesting, regardless of the risks involved. The good news is that Cheveldayoff has done a good job of getting value out of his trades. The package acquired for Kane has proven to be quite valuable, and the trade deadline haul for Ladd was great. If the Jets want to keep Trouba on the team, the situation becomes a lot murkier. I have little hope of a settlement to be reached this late in the game. Even if the Jets manage to re-sign Trouba, Mathieu Perreault’s comments indicate there’s no love lost in the locker-room.

That sound you hear is me clenching. Trouba’s agent is going on-air today, and it won’t be pretty. Overhardt ruffles the feathers of every GM he’s come into contact with. That bodes ill for my hopes of a Trouba contract extension. I have no idea what the Jets are going to do, so I’m just going to try and relax before the season starts. Strap in folks, because this could be a very bumpy ride.


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