With the chance the Winnipeg Jets will re-sign Jacob Trouba to a long-term contract at an all-time low, it’s looking likely that Game 6 of the Jets’ first-round matchup against the St. Louis Blues last month will be the last game the defenseman ever plays in a Jets jersey.
Related: The Case for Trading Jacob Trouba
Count on there being a number of suitors attempting to woo Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff into dealing them the 25-year-old top-pairing, shutdown, minute-munching defenseman this summer.
While there are many places Trouba could end up, there are four teams in particular who could be blowing up “Chevy’s” phone over the next while as they attempt to bolster their blue line with a 50-point player entering the prime of his career.
The Sabres got off to a surprisingly hot start in 2018-19, which included a historic 10-game winning streak in November. On Dec. 1, they were 17-7-3 and third place in the Atlantic Division, but between then and the end of the season, they went a dismal 16-32-7 and missed the playoffs for the eighth-straight season.
Part of this was due to their transient defensive corps, which saw no less than a dozen members suit up for it and give up 271 goals overall.
The Sabres definitely have some good blue line pieces, such as 2018 first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin — who had a tremendous rookie season — lower-profile but nonetheless promising fellow rookie Lawrence Pilut, and the budding Brandon Montour, who they acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at this February’s Trade Deadline.
Trouba would represent a major upgrade over the oft-injured Zach Bogosian — who has never played more than 65 games in any of his four full seasons since joining the squad — and Casey Nelson — who, at 26, only has 93 NHL games under his belt.
Recently, THW’s own Jordan DeShane suggested the Sabres swap right-handed defenders and send the polarizing Rasmus Ristolainen to the Jets in exchange for Trouba.
“If the Sabres were able to pry the defenseman from Winnipeg, it would enable them to ice a formidable top-four featuring Dahlin, Montour, Pilut and Trouba,” DeShane wrote. “It would mean less ice time for Scandella and Bogosian and the money required to sign Trouba would not present a problem.”
The Sabres would have to send more than Ristolainen in order to finagle that deal given his historically poor analytics, but it’s an interesting starting point.
Detroit Red Wings
It’s no secret Trouba has never really dug Winnipeg as a place to live, so sending him back to his home state of Michigan makes sense.
The Red Wings have huge blue line needs. 38-year-old Niklas Kronwall, who played nearly 1,000 games for them over 15 seasons, is on his way out. Most of their other blueliners are up there in age, including 35-year-olds Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson and 29-year-old Danny DeKeyser.
The Red Wings have some prospects in their pipeline, such as Dennis Cholowski, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek (if he re-signs) , and Jared McIsaac, but those players don’t address the fact that they need an NHL-ready defenseman sooner rather than later.
The Red Wings will be flush with cash this offseason and would easily be able to give Trouba the $7 million he’ll likely demand, and have a new GM in Steve Yzerman who will be itching to make a big early impression. There’s also a chance Trouba would give the Red Wings the hometown discount he’s made it clear he won’t give the Jets.
All these factors combine to make a compelling case Trouba could be heading to the Motor City. There were even rumours the Jets were trying to trade Trouba to the Red Wings back in 2016 during his six-month holdout that caused him to miss the first month of the 2016-17 season.
Like the Red Wings’ Yzerman, Panthers GM Dale Tallon has money burning a hole in his pocket.
Tallon promised that his team — one that’s made the postseason only twice since the turn of the century — is “going to be aggressive in the off-season” to fix their biggest problem: their porous defence.
The Sunshine State squad doesn’t have much outside of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, who make up their top pairing. Their right-handed depth is non-existent: other than Ekblad, they’ve got McKenzie Weegar — who is on an expiring contract — Josh Brown and Mark Pysyk.
The Panthers blew 26 leads in 2018-19, which The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell wrote was because they were “so defensively flawed that it doesn’t even look like it cares about how it plays on the other side of the puck.”
“Every indication points to Jacob Trouba leaving the Winnipeg Jets, likely this summer… and the chances of him remaining in Winnipeg, or playing for any other team in Canada, are almost nil,” Campbell wrote in late March. “The Jets are not going to let an asset like Trouba leave for nothing, so he is a prime candidate to be traded, probably at the draft this year. He would look very good in a Panthers uniform.”
The Panthers can afford to offer Trouba whatever price he wanted, which the Jets cannot. By making a big trade early, Tallon could also communicate to newly-minted head coach Joel Quenneville that the front office is committed to giving ‘Coach Q’ the pieces he needs to succeed.
Florida is a desirable market for many NHLers due to its low taxes and tremendous year-round weather. There’s also another factor that makes it — and other sunshine belt teams — attractive: that hockey plays third fiddle to football and baseball and as such, the sports media doesn’t scrutinize NHL teams or players to nearly the same extent media in hockey hotbeds do.
Unlike the Red Wings and Panthers, the Flyers don’t have pressing needs on D — they have a solid blue line which includes Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Samuel Morin. They also have youngsters Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, both RFAs that should be back.
However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the running for Trouba’s services. Adding another elite right-handed defenseman would be a boost for the team as Andrew MacDonald is 32 and Radko Gudas doesn’t bring the same level of offensive awareness.
Flyers Nerd suggested — quite like DeShane with the Ristolainen trade — that the Flyers swap a defenseman, in particular Gostisbehere, in exchange for Trouba. This is an interesting proposition, as it would save the Jets nearly $3 million while giving them a potentially game-breaking d-man.
However, Gostisbehere has been a historically poor defender, which THW’s own Nathan Kanter explored back in January in his pitch that the Vancouver Canucks should pursue him, and it’s a huge question mark as to whether he will ever come close to matching his prolific 65-point 2017-18 campaign.
Trade Talks Could Heat Up Soon
Based on financial capacity and team needs, Detroit or Florida seem to be the most logical destinations for Trouba at this point. It’s safe to assume all four teams outlined above, and others not explored, have already enquired about him.
It should be the Jets’ goal to trade Trouba — as Campbell suggested — by the 2019 NHL Entry Draft on June 21 and 22. This would give them a better picture of how many of their boatload of RFAs and UFAs they can re-sign. One would also hope a high-round 2019 pick would come back to the Jets in a Trouba deal as the Jets gave up their 2019 first-rounder to get Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers on deadline day.
With just six weeks until the draft, the coming weeks should provide plenty of rumours, news, and hopefully, a deal. Look for things to heat up soon.