Training camp is weeks away, and the Winnipeg Jets have signed forward JC Lipon to a new two-way deal. There is one piece of unfinished business that involves one of the best up-and-coming players on the Jets’ roster: Jacob Trouba remains a restricted free agent.
The latest update on the Jacob Trouba situation came on Aug. 2, when TSN reported the two parties are not completely on different pages, but still are apart when it comes to salary negotiations, term, and future role. Monday, Sportsnet reported that Trouba’s agent declined comment, as both sides apparently want to keep this situation out of the media.
Obviously, given the tremendous upside that Trouba possesses, he is looking for a major salary raise, as well as more playing time on the top-four with top-four talent. The 22-year-old has everything that a team could hope for in a defenseman: size, speed and skill. However, for the Jets, a team that only has a bit over $6 million remaining in cap space, signing Trouba to an expensive, long-term deal may not be as easy as it seems.
If Trouba is rewarded with a long-term, expensive contract, it could be with similar in term and a bit lower salary than Jets’ own Dustin Byfuglien, the team’s top defender, and though the young defender hasn’t exactly proved to be a Byfuglien just yet, Trouba’s has the potential to become a player of that calibre.
In Trouba’s three years in the NHL, the 6-foot-3, 202-pound defenseman has averaged 24 points per season, as well as 0.91 points per 60 and a 22:34 TOI. His 2015-16 campaign was decent, and he posted 4.8 hits and 5.9 blocks per 60, along with a 51.3 Corsi for percentage and a -0.3 Relative Corsi.
With Trouba, you have a solid defender who not only brings the size and physicality night in and night out, but also knows how to shoot the puck. He’s also an excellent skater, and is only just starting his career. However, when you compare him to Byfuglien, the differences are evident.
When Byfuglien steps on the ice, he makes his teammates better and starts the breakout. He can quarterback a power-play, creates offensive opportunities and plays a shutdown game on the backend. Take all of that, as well as his ability to score at least 36 points per season, you get a strong, all-around player.
While Trouba also benefits the play of his teammates, he has not yet proven himself to be as much of an asset as Big Buff is to Winnipeg.
To evaluate the impact that Trouba has on his teammates, let’s look at Trouba influences the advanced stats of his teammates, then, how his teammates impact him. We’ll look at his stats with three of the best players on Winnipeg’s roster: Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.
|Relative Corsi Affected by Trouba||Wheeler||Byfuglien||Scheifele|
As it’s easy to see, while Trouba benefits his teammates, it is often difficult for him to perform well without the better ones by his side. Byfuglien can stand on his own, and though the two make a great tandem, Trouba suffers greatly without him (although a large part is likely due to the Mark Stuart effect).
When it comes to all around scoring, one can also note that Trouba helps a lot in defending the net, but his overall scoring numbers suffer without his teammates. The bright spot of this is, however, that he does not completely fail on the defensive side of things without the best players on the ice.
|Goals For/Against Per 60||Wheeler||Byfuglien||Scheifele|
|With Trouba||GF: 3.50
|Without Trouba||GF: 2.81
|Trouba Without||GF: 2.46
Though Trouba does play a strong defensive game, and shows the ability to become a top-pairing defender for a playoff-NHL team as his career continues, the Jets should be weary of signing an unproven players, considering they know a thing or two about taking a gamble. Tyler Myers, though a big defenseman, is nowhere near becoming a number-one blueliner, but is signed to an expensive contract and makes $5 million AAV.
As both sides continue negotiations, Trouba will continue pushing for a higher salary, but it will be difficult for the Jets to commit when he has not yet completely proven himself. Given the situation, Trouba has proven himself to be an asset and one of the best upcoming right-handed defenseman. He does have flaws, such as overly lining up hits, lacking overall consistency, and struggling with possession at times.
However, he is poised to become one of the top defenders in the NHL, and with the scarcity of top right-handed blueliners in the NHL, he has a high value, and if the Jets and him can’t come to terms, expect other teams to be ready to offer him a deal – likely on terms that would be to his liking.
In my opinion, the Jets need to get a deal for him done. It is imperative to their future, as there is nothing holding him back from becoming a top defender. He’s big, he knows how to skate and he is incredibly physical. He is only 22 years old and still has plenty of time to further develop his offense, and he already has a strong shot from the point.
When it all comes down to it, I believe the Jets will come to terms with him closer to the start of camp, but it won’t be an expensive, long-term deal by any means.