Score one for the Winnipeg Jets.
Jacob Trouba signed a two-year contract with the Jets Monday, below market value and of shorter term than he would have liked. The numbers — $2.5 million for this season and $3.5 million for next — make Trouba far easier to trade, and gives the Jets back a motivated defenceman who needs to prove his worth on the open market.
Trouba will return to a dressing room where he’ll have to prove his loyalty to the cause, and to a city that saw through the ruse right from the start. Trouba said it was about not wanting to play left defence. Winnipeggers knew it was about him not wanting to be in Winnipeg, be it playing on the left side, the right side or as Dancin’ Gabe’s backup.
And that is exactly why Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff couldn’t afford to blink.
First of all, as a player coming out of his entry-level deal, Trouba had one right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement: To withhold his services and not play NHL hockey this season. After that, he and agent Kurt Overhardt were in no position to dictate terms of Trouba’s employment to Cheveldayoff, beyond negotiating a deal in Winnipeg.
They pushed the Jets GM and he pushed back, the NHL market making it clear that the Jets ask for Trouba would inhibit him being dealt in time for the Dec. 1 deadline, after which he would have been ineligible to play.
Why did Cheveldayoff hold firm? Because he had no other choice.
The reality of being Winnipeg, a relatively small Canadian winter city, is that at any one time there are between five and 10 players in your dressing room who would love to be playing elsewhere. Or, their wives feel that way.
It’s hard enough to build a competitive club when the Jets are listed on every No Trade Clause list in hockey. Giving in to a 22-year-old, right-shot defenceman with ample skill and few rights would be GM suicide for Cheveldayoff.
So he left Trouba and Overhardt out in the cold, and on Monday got Trouba’s name on the kind of deal that will make him easy to trade. (Remember: This signing only means that Trouba thought it prudent to get playing. We won’t assume it has changed his opinion on living in Winnipeg.)
With an Average Annual Value of $3 million, Trouba took less than market value on the bridge deal he originally did not want. Who wouldn’t take Trouba on their club at that price? Though now, he might want to start working on his production in order to entice a trade.
He has still never had a 30-point season, and only once has Trouba surpassed 22 points. Not exactly the American Bobby Orr here, right?
Trouba is one of those players whose name has been out on the market for so long, he can become over-valued. In reality, there are many hockey people who question whether Trouba’s points production and decision making will qualify him as a player worth top-pairing money.
Certainly, at the recent World Cup of Hockey he was Team North America’s seventh defenceman until Aaron Ekblad succumbed to injury. And even then it was St. Louis’ Colton Parayko who was moved up to join Morgan Rielly on the top pair, not Trouba.
Others, however, covet Trouba as an up and coming Brent Seabrook type, with a good shot, and size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) that can make for the complete package.
Now that he is back in the Jets lineup, the only question that remains is whether Cheveldayoff will consummate a trade for the player, or whether we’ll find ourselves in the same spot a year-and-a-half from now. Consider that Canadian teams are out of the mix on a trade, and a portion of the remaining American teams do not have the pieces to entice Cheveldayoff, or the cap space to make a deal happen.
And what if the players offered up in return don’t want to play in Winnipeg either? That’s a factor that has become reality for the Jets.
Of those eligible clubs, will Cheveldayoff keep his asking price as high as it was these past few weeks? Or will he lower it enough to placate the player with a deal that still helps the Jets save face?
Cheveldayoff won Round 1 with Trouba in decisive fashion. But if Trouba truly doesn’t want to live in the 204 area code, it’s best to move him out before his discontent infects any of his teammates.
After the deal Cheveldayoff made for Evander Kane, Jets fans should have faith in their GM when it comes to moving a far more saleable player.