The Winnipeg Jets have reached an agreement with restricted free-agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. After missing the first 13 games of the season, Trouba and the Jets agreed to a two-year bridge deal that will pay him a prorated base salary of $2.5 million this season and $3.5 million next season.
Trouba, 22, is a valued asset in the Jets organization. Getting this deal done now ahead of the December 1st deadline, at which point any unsigned free agent becomes ineligible to play for the rest of the season, is a relief for both sides.
While the situation remains complicated, this is a significant move for the Jets and for Trouba’s career.
For one thing, the deal couldn’t come at a better time for a Jets team that is playing without defensemen Tyler Myers and Mark Stuart, who are both out with injuries.
For another, the team has gotten off to a rocky start and now sits at 5-7-1, good for fifth in the tight Central Division and ninth in the conference. The team has been without center Bryan Little for the majority of the season, but the team’s defense and especially its goaltending have been concerning. Trouba, an excellent possession player who drives play in the offensive zone, will be a tremendous boost to a struggling team.
It’s also beneficial for Trouba, a young up-and-coming star in the NHL, to get back in the lineup.
However, the situation is still quite complicated.
Trouba issued a statement through his agent on September 24 explaining that he has been unhappy with his role in the Jets organization and that he requested a trade in May. Trouba, a right-handed defenseman, has been forced to play beneath Dustin Byfuglien and Myers on the Jets’ depth chart.
At this point, it’s unclear and unknown if the trade request is still active. But for the time being, getting Trouba back in the lineup will be huge for Winnipeg. The Jets expect him to re-join the lineup as early as tomorrow night against Dallas or Thursday night in Arizona.
It’s likely Trouba will step in on the second pairing as Tobias Enstrom’s partner, but it’s unclear how things will shape up once Myers returns to the lineup. Perhaps Trouba will move to the left side and play with Byfuglien on the team’s top pairing, though that would force rookie Josh Morrissey down the depth chart.
Complicating matters further, there is tremendous interest around the league for a defenseman of Trouba’s caliber. It was believed on multiple occasions that the Jets would be forced to move him since a deal couldn’t be reached. Now that he has signed, will he stay in Winnipeg? It’s difficult to know.
Trouba still has a lot of potential and was highly-touted when he was taken ninth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
For now, the Jets are pleased to have him back and are focused on the positive.
“In this game, anybody can be traded, but today, here, we’re very excited about this announcement and moving forward, putting whatever has happened or has been said behind us,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said today on a media conference call. “We’re very excited to see Jacob in the lineup for us again.”
Trouba has played 211 regular-season games in Winnipeg, scoring 23 goals and 72 points; he has two points in four career playoff games. He scored a career-high 29 points in his rookie season and has yet to repeat that effort, scoring 22 and 21 points in his second and third seasons, respectively. But Trouba has been solid defensively throughout his three seasons in the league, and the Jets will welcome his stabilizing presence.
Featured Image Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports