Halfway through October and two games into the season, nothing seems to have changed between the Winnipeg Jets and Jacob Trouba.
With each passing game the pressure increases. Trouba is staring down a December 1st deadline: if he hasn’t signed a deal by that date, he’ll be unable to play anywhere in the league this season. Is moving to a team with greater opportunity on the right side worth risking a year over? Meanwhile, in the unforgiving Central Division, a handful of losses in the fall could mean watching the playoffs on TV in the spring. Can the Jets afford to leave Trouba sitting idle?
But if Kevin Cheveldayoff has proved anything at the helm of the Jets, it’s that he’ll wait — and wait, and wait — until the return he’s looking for presents itself. Read on after the jump for three trade options for Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets.
The Jets are looking for a scarce resource in return for Trouba: a young, left-shooting, top-four defenceman. They’re looking for Jacob Trouba’s reflection.
That return would be a huge boon to the Jets, allowing them to fill the gaping hole on the left side of their depth chart. Handedness matters: d partners who shoot the same way (like the Byfuglien-Trouba pairing from last season) typically allow almost seven more shot attempts per 60 minutes than a left-shot/right-shot pairing.
Unfortunately, that drastically limits their trade options. There are few 22-year-old defencemen as talented as Jacob Trouba, and even fewer who are likely to be available by trade. Several of the teams rumoured to be in the hardest on Trouba, including the Avalanche and the Rangers, have no players matching the Jets’ preferred return. The answer might be a compromise. If they can’t exchange Trouba for an identical left-shot defenceman, they should still be able to build a deal around a lesser left-shot option.
All that said, here are three trade scenarios that could make sense for the Jets.
OPTION 1: TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Of all the possibilities, a swap with the Maple Leafs might make the most sense. Toronto’s two best defencemen — Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner — both shoot left. It’s hard to imagine the Leafs making Rielly available. He’s a favourite of Mike Babcock, a new alternate captain, and is playing tough minutes on the Toronto blueline.
But swapping Trouba for Gardiner would improve the balance on each blueline. Gardiner is locked up for three seasons at an inordinately reasonable $4.05 million AAV, after which he will be eligible to hit unrestricted free agency.
The biggest question mark for a Gardiner-Trouba deal is how each team values Jake Gardiner. Statistically, Gardiner looks like a true top-pairing defenceman. He makes the Leafs better by shot and goal metrics, and puts points on the board fairly efficiently.
But until recently, Gardiner has been something of a lightning rod among the Maple Leafs fanbase. In the pre-Babcock era, he struggled to earn the trust of Toronto’s coaches, and was often criticized by Leafs fans. While statistically he is a no-brainer first-pairing defenceman, it’s probably fair to say that to most observers he looks like a second- or third-pair player.
As it so often is, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Gardiner isn’t Jacob Trouba, but he is a solid option who makes a positive impact on the ice. He would fit great as a left-side partner for either Myers or Byfuglien.
The likely sticking point here is the extra piece(s) to the deal. What players, prospects or picks would the Leafs be willing to include to get the deal done? Some have suggested Gardiner+Nylander (not going to happen), while others contend the Leafs wouldn’t even do Gardiner alone for Trouba (equally unlikely.)
OPTION 2: EDMONTON OILERS
The initial chatter around a Winnipeg/Edmonton trade has died down, but they are one of the few teams for whom a d-man swap makes real sense. Here’s a list of the Oilers’ left-shot defencemen:
- Oscar Klefbom
- Andrej Sekera
- Darnell Nurse
- Brandon Davidson
- Kris Russell
- Adam Larsson
- Eric Gryba
As much as the Oilers may believe they’ve patched the leak with Russell, their blueline still needs fixing. The obvious target for the Jets is Oscar Klefbom. He’s 23 years old, has put up phenomenal possession numbers, and is signed for seven(!) seasons at just $4.2 million AAV. He doesn’t have Trouba’s resumé, but he fits the Jets’ positional needs on a great contract.
Unsurprisingly, the Oilers have little interest in trading Klefbom, and Edmonton fans have focused more on packages centred around Darnell Nurse or Brandon Davidson. Noooope.
OPTION 3: BOSTON BRUINS
Desperate for young bodies on the blueline, the Bruins have been rumoured to be interested in Trouba for just about forever. To get Trouba, though, Boston would have to give up their only good young defenceman in Torey Krug.
Krug is a 25-year-old offensive specialist, playing (and crushing) sheltered minutes for the Bruins.
He would do wonders for the Jets’ powerplay, but Krug isn’t an ideal fit with the Jets at even-strength. Neither Byfuglien nor Myers are the type of dependable two-way players that would make for a trustworthy partnership. Still, Krug is an effortless puck-mover who would help out the Jets’ young forward group in transition, and be an enormous improvement on Winnipeg’s left-side defence group.
It’s not the most natural fit, but it would make the Winnipeg blueline so much fun.
Those are far from the only three options available to the Jets. As every insider report has mentioned, when a player of Trouba’s ilk becomes available, every team in the league comes calling. But Cheveldayoff has a well-earned reputation for patience, and so if he wants to wait for a left-shot defencemen, that’s what the Jets are likely to do.
For what it’s worth, here are a few others who might be on Chevy’s radar:
- Nick Leddy (thumbs up emoji)
- Danny DeKeyser (poop emoji)
- Ben Hutton (pink hearts emoji)
- Brayden McNabb (thinking dude emoji)
- Olli Maatta (penguin emoji)
In a fun (read: not that fun) twist for the Jets, several of the teams most interested in Trouba lack the type of player the Jets are targeting. Those teams include the Rangers, Coyotes, and Avalanche. It would be against the Chevy M.O. to settle for anything less than their exact target in a Trouba deal, but maybe they make a creative offer worth considering.
At this point, putting the pieces together on a Trouba deal will be huge for all parties. Letting a player as valuable as Jacob Trouba sit on his thumbs at home is handicapping the Jets as they try to get back to the playoffs. Meanwhile, his reputation is only continuing to take a hit as he misses games.
Whatever your feelings about Kevin Cheveldayoff, his patience is undeniably impressive. But it’s time to trade Jacob Trouba, even if that means getting back less than the left-hand point man they’re waiting for.