Last month, we explored four potential teams the Winnipeg Jets could deal pending restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba to, since the probability of him signing a long-term in Winnipeg is low.
There hasn’t been much noise on Trouba since then; not publicly, at least. You can bet Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s heard some ringing in the past 30 days. However, as the June 21, 2019 NHL Entry Draft — the date the Jets should deal the d-man by so they can have a better picture of which UFAs and RFAs they can afford — inches ever-closer, talk is ramping up again. Trouba recently jumped to second, behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel, on TSN’s Hockey Trade Bait List.
To be in the running to attain the services of the top pairing, minute-eating, and physical 25-year-old, a team needs two things: the cap space to offer him $7-plus million dollars to patrol their blue line, and a good enough culture and/or market to convince him to sign a long term deal.
Devils Could Use a Shutdown Defenseman
The Metropolitan Division basement-dwelling Devils finished their forgettable 2018-19 season negative 53 in goal differential, and their d-corps is very much in a state of flux.
Will Butcher, Connor Carrick, and Mirco Mueller are all restricted free agents come July 1. Compounding that, Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen — second and third among Devils defensemen in average ice time in 2018-19 — are unrestricted free agents after the 2019-20 season.
Without any top-tier defensive prospects in their system, one can see how a player such as Trouba — who is entering his prime, had a higher average ice time than any Devil, and put up a career-high 50 points in 2018-19 — would be exceedingly tempting to GM Ray Shero.
“The New Jersey Devils have never spent big in free agency under general manager Ray Shero, but that needs to change this offseason…” wrote The Hockey Writers’ own Alex Chauvancy wrote recently. “They… need more talent, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since they have the first-overall pick at the Entry Draft.”
Devils Have the Dough
The Devils have the capability to do that big spending this summer. When you take a look at the Devils’ salary cap info, a Jets/Devils trade makes even more sense.
The “tons of cap space” Brennan Klak refers to is truly that: a ton. As of this writing, their cap hit is $47.4 million, which means they have a whopping $35.6 million to work with. They have the second-highest projected cap space, behind only the Colorado Avalanche.
A big chunk of that will likely up going to Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, who is “in no rush to sign an extension” but whose agent is in regular talks with Shero, a recent report reveals. Even if Hall were to sign this offseason, though, Shero would still have plenty of room to offer Trouba a hefty sum, a sum the Jets cannot.
Devils Have What Jets (Should) Want
The Jets’ “first wave” of prospects — Nikolaj Ehlers, Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Patrik Laine — have aged, or are about to age out of, their entry level contracts. The former three already have long-term deals and the latter two are about to get serious raises that better reflect their skills than the paltry sums they’ve made over the past three seasons.
It’s time the Jets’ organization begins piling up prospects again. One result of being a Cup contender and in “compete now” mode has been that they’ve traded away their first-round pick for two straight seasons: one for Paul Stastny last February and one for Kevin Hayes this February. As a result, they don’t have as much in the system.
“For a draft-and-development franchise, restocking the prospect shelves has to be a big priority right now,” the Winnipeg Free Press’ Mike McIntyre recently wrote (from ‘Jets GM clears the decks to make way for hard work to come before draft,’ Winnipeg Free Press, 06/03/19.)
No team may be better equipped to help the Jets do that than the Devils. In addition to possessing the first-overall pick — which they’ll use to draft Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, depending on who you ask — they possess a trio of second-round picks: 34th, 55th, and 62nd overall.
Trouba’s worth more than a second-round pick or two; the Devils would have to give the Jets an NHL-ready player to make a deal work. It’s tough to see the Jets not asking for back-end help of their own, especially if they opt to let UFA Tyler Myers walk.
The Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe suggested Damon Severson as a suitable return. The 24-year-old right-hander’s spent five seasons with the Devils since being drafted in 2012, and is from Manitoba, to boot.
“Trouba is the more advanced and complete player, but Severson would give the Jets cost certainly at $4.167 million for the next four seasons,” Wiebe wrote (from ‘Who might make Jets best offer for Trouba,’ Winnipeg Sun, 06/04/19.)
Trouba to the Devils is a compelling case, and the more suitors the Jets have for him, the better. Whoever they end up dealing him to — the Devils, the four we explored last month, or someone else — they should take the best offer they get before the draft. The Trouba saga has gone on long enough, and it’s time for it to end so they can move on other things.