Jets can’t afford to let Jacob Trouba push them around

Mathieu Perreault spoke candidly about defenceman Jacob Trouba’s request to be traded from the Jets, saying it’s not something the players appreciate hearing.

You’ve got to give Jacob Trouba — or at least his script writer — some credit. The premise of Trouba’s holdout is, if not entirely believable, at least unique.

We’ve heard of centremen who have complained about being banished to the wing, but as long as we’ve covered the National Hockey League we’ve never heard of a player wanting out of town because his coach wants him to play defence on his off-side.

“To the Jets’ credit, the club has two outstanding right-shot veteran defencemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role,” agent Kurt Overhardt said in a Sept. 24 statement. “As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.”

Question: What if Trouba, a right-hand shot, were traded to (insert name of American-based, heavy-spending club here) and after 20 games, injury strikes the left side. Trouba is lacing up for the morning skate when the assistant coach walks into the dressing room and writes the lines and pairings down on the white board. Trouba has been switched over to left side defence.

What happens now?

If this gripe is true — humour us for a minute here — then find a team that wants a player who is going to quit as soon there is an imbalance of right- to left-shot defencemen. As soon as he’s asked to get outside his comfort zone for the betterment of the team, he’s outta there.

The last few words of Overhardt’s statement — “a mutually advantageous trade” — is where the disingenuousness of this statement goes over the top. The Jets will never get fair value on this deal before Dec. 1 — the date after which an unsigned RFA can not play for the entire season — and Overhardt knows it.

What about Evander Kane, you say? They dealt him for a largesse, you recall?

That was a home run for Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to be sure, but one that took months to incubate. The timeline on Trouba works against Cheveldayoff.

Trouba is growing into a nice player, though an ongoing poll of hockey observers provides a running debate over the pedigree of his hockey sense.

He’s big, but reminds of Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry in that his physical play leaves you wanting more from a six-foot-three defenceman. He has offensive upside, but for some reason his point totals have gone down ever year.

Trouba was chosen to play for Team North America, but when he got there he quickly became the seventh defenceman in that group.

Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, he finds himself caught in the age-old, chicken-and-egg hockey argument between young players and management.

The Jets says, “You’re not productive enough to get a massive, long- term second contract, or to take Dustin Byfuglien’s power-play minutes away.”

And the players replies, “The only reason I am not more productive is because you don’t play me where I need to play.”

Team: “Earn your ice time.”

Player: “I can’t do that on the left side.”

The problem, of course, is that hockey is not a democracy. The owners draft 18-year-old players into the league, assign their rights to a franchise, and that player has to play a certain amount of time in the league before accruing the right to make his own decisions on where he wants to play.

The flip side of this Draconian system? How many people do you know who have earned US $3 million before their 23rd birthday, as Trouba has?

Despite the fact Trouba could likely secure a three-year, $14 million contract from Winnipeg before supper tonight, he and his representative have chosen to take the establishment on — as is their right.

In the Jets and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff however, the Trouba camp has found a staunch foe for many reasons.

First off, of the NHL players with choices, few would choose Winnipeg as their base. Personally, I live in Edmonton — it’s just a reality of living in a smaller Western Canadian city that has a real (read: Not Toronto) winter.

As such, at any one time the Jets likely have five players in their dressing room who would love to be traded. That makes Cheveldayoff the one GM who simply cannot afford to be pushed around by a 22-year-old restricted free agent.

(A story: Years ago a US-born Oilers player was called into then-GM Glen Sather’s office and told of a trade. The player’s wife was readying to leave town for some reason, so needing to reach her quickly, the player asked if he could use Sather’s office phone. The conversation went like this:

Player: “Honey, we’ve been traded.”

Wife: “YAHOOOOO! Where are we going…?”)

Our prediction: The Jets will not trade Trouba before Dec. 1, and the player will sign a one-year deal under the provision that Cheveldayoff seeks a trade. It’s a lose-lose, because now neither side is invested in each other.

From the Jets’ standpoint, there are plenty of Jacob Troubas out there, and many more on the way.

There is only one Winnipeg however, and if the Jets let Trouba push them around, Cheveldayoff may as well install turnstiles at the dressing room door.

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