A cloud hangs over the Winnipeg Jets as they prepare to celebrate their marquee Heritage Classic this weekend.
Disgruntled defenceman Jacob Trouba remains unsigned and unmoved.
The 22-year-old restricted free agent requested a trade out of Winnipeg in May because he wants top-four minutes as a right shot. The Jets are deep on right D, with the proven and well-compensated Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers filling that role.
While the young Jets amble out of the gate with a 1-2-0 record, Trouba skates silently at home in Michigan, awaiting a new sweater. The Detroit Red Wings, who would like to add a blue-liner, are one of a number of teams believed to have interest in the RFA.
Yet Trouba’s trade value is obviously not high enough for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to complete a deal.
“It’s an unfortunate business type of situation that you deal with,” the tight-lipped Cheveldayoff told Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday. “Rest assured, there’s been lots of work on this.”
Cheveldayoff is as patient as he is media savvy, so it’ll be intriguing to see how the stalemate plays out as we near the Dec. 1 deadline — after which Trouba becomes ineligible to play the 2016-17 season.
“It’s not something on our minds,” Trouba’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, told the Winnipeg Free Press Monday. “There’s obviously a lot of time between now and then. We’re going to continue to keep working in good faith and try helping to facilitate a positive transaction so everyone can benefit.”
Recall: Former young Winnipeg standout Evander Kane had repeatedly requested a trade, but it was only when Cheveldayoff got a respectable offer that he pulled the trigger.
So, we wait.
“I think we all know that we wouldn’t be in this situation right now if it wasn’t a young man’s game,” Overhardt told the National Post. “Part of it is systemic. But the other part is the skill level of players coming out of junior and college and Europe is pretty incredible.
“We’ve got 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds playing huge roles on teams. And at 22 years old, a player doesn’t want to stay around waiting if he thinks his ability is greater than the opportunity he’s been given, because there’s really great players in front of him.”
One Jets fan held aloft a homemade sign behind the home bench this week: “I made more $$ than Trouba this week.”
The Trouba dilemma touches on tricky territory — unproven players with little leverage throwing their weight; Winnipeg getting painted as an undesirable destination — and both sides have kept things respectful publicly. Still, the stalemate weighs on a dressing room eager to rebound from a disappointing 2015-16 and return to playoff contention:
“I think the players understand these situations. They obviously have at different points in time witnessed, seen it or been part of it,” said Cheveldayoff, ever the diplomat. “At the end of the day, I’m going to make the decision that I feel is right for the Winnipeg Jets organization.”
Cheveldayoff said there are “lots of management calls at this time of year,” and some of those likely include calls on his former No. 1 goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, who was demoted to the AHL while ’90s babies Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson mind the crease.
But the Jets GM won’t rule out a Pavelec promotion either.
“I don’t think our goalies have stole a game yet,” Cheveldayoff said. “I would rate it as a work in progress.”
Just like Trouba’s future.