McKenzie on Trouba, Jets: Off-season is time to fish or cut bait

Jacob Trouba is less than two years away from his eligibility to become an unrestricted free agent, and it’s guaranteed that trade rumors will be resurfacing by the time the summer rolls around.

Bob McKenzie tackled a Trouba-related question in the latest edition of the TSN Hockey Bobcast that was centered around the potential return for the defenseman in the coming off-season, which is when he’d only have one year remaining until UFA status.

“I guess we should probably, before we answer that question, we should review the contractual history of Jacob Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets,” began McKenzie. “Because it’s really kind of fascinating for a guy who is now 24 years old - he’ll be 25 in February.

“Signed his three-year entry-level contract and played his first three years. Then did a two-year bridge deal at $3 million per year, didn’t commit to the long-term deal. And then went to salary arbitration in the off-season, and Trouba and the Jets were not able to negotiate a contract. The one-year, $5.5 million deal that he has is an arbitration award. And it’s interesting that even in spite of the arbitration, which usually pushes the player and the team together to do either a long-term deal or something longer than a one-year deal, they ended up with that one-year award.

“So that’s why a lot of fans in Winnipeg have questions about Jacob Trouba. Now, it’s worth noting he’s got the one-year deal this year, and he’s got one more year after this season before he’s an unrestricted free agent. So David brings up a really good point, and that is probably the optimal time - if you’re going to trade Jacob Trouba - is in the off-season.

“But, like Erik Karlsson and like a lot of guys, he becomes an extended rental - that is, you get a full year of him. But unless somebody can negotiate a long-term deal with him, the Jets’ price - what it would cost to acquire Trouba, the Jets’ take on that half of it - might not be as much as some people would like, given the fact that he’s a top-pairing defenseman on that team. He and Morrissey are the shutdown pair. Although the way the Jets spread things around with Byfuglien on the second pair and often times Tyler Myers on the third, it’s extremely balanced, and that shutdown role is very well-supported by the second and third pairings in Winnipeg.

“There’s lot of Jets fans who don’t believe that Trouba has shown an inclination to want to commit to the team long term, and I think that’s fair - that’s probably accurate. And whether that’s a Winnipeg thing or whether it’s simply that he wants way, way, way more money than the Jets are prepared to or could even consider - given all of the other things they have to do, and David correctly pointed out that the Patrik Laine deal and the Kyle Connor deal are not going to be easy deals to get done.

“So yeah, this off-season is the time to fish or cut bait with Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets. Either he’s prepared to do a long-term deal this coming summer, in the summer of 2019, or the best thing for the Jets to do would be to trade him.

“And then as I said, you’re impacted by the fact that he’s a year away from unrestricted free agency. And see if wants to negotiate with somebody else. Maybe he can do his free agent shopping a little bit early, and maybe there’s a sign-and-trade there. Lots of things to consider.

“But that’s the summer of ‘19, and the Jets aren’t particularly worried about that right now. I think, as we mentioned on a previous Bobcast or talking about the Winnipeg Jets in the season preview, they’re all-in to win the Stanley Cup and right now their best chance to do that is with Jacob Trouba in their lineup. So they don’t even need to discuss any of this stuff until next season.

“But it’s going to be a hot topic next year, and I don’t doubt for a moment that the Jets feel like they need to continue grooming Tucker Poolman, because ultimately - if Winnipeg were to trade Trouba, if they weren’t to get a long-term deal done with him next summer… and that’s still a possibility, I suppose, although history suggests - three-year entry-level deal, a two-year bridge deal, a one-year salary arb deal - there’s a real absence of long-term commitment there, so we’ll see where it goes.

“But as I said, I think it’s really important to make sure Tucker Poolman plays a lot - if it’s not with Winnipeg in the NHL, then with the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League - and make sure he’s ready to hit the ground running  if Trouba is dealt and there’s a big hole in the blueline, depending obviously on what they might get back for Trouba in a trade.”

Contract-related info via CapFriendly