There have been rumours swirling around Jacob Trouba being traded for years but Monday night, the Winnipeg cap crunch reared its head as Trouba was shipped to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenceman Neal Pionk and Winnipeg’s original first round pick that was sent in the Kevin Hayes trade.
(Whether it was the cap crunch or Trouba made it clear he wouldn't return, that's all irrelevant now.)
Trouba, who has one year of RFA status left before hitting unrestricted free agency, had 50 points in 2018-19, by far a career-best for him. He turned 25 years old in February.
What does this mean for both teams?
It’s amazing how quick a rebuild can come together. It was just 16 months ago that GM Jeff Gorton outright said the team was heading to a rebuild. In the time since, the team has been stripped down to the point where the only forward currently with a contract past 2019-20 is Mika Zibanejad, and the only defenceman with a contract past 2020-21 is Brady Skjei. They’ve added Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and likely Kaapo Kakko later this week, not to mention having up-and-coming prospects like Igor Shesterkin, Vitali Kravtsov, and more.
Besides that, this gives them a top-pair right-handed defenceman for at least 2019-20. I understand the concern that Trouba only signs a one-year deal to get to free agency, and that’s a risk the Rangers took. But if that’s the case, they can trade him later in the season, likely for a return similar to the one used to get him. Not a bad gamble.
It gives the Rangers a lot of depth on the right side. As of now, they have Trouba, Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony Deangelo (who needs a contract as an RFA, by the by), and Fox. It’s a little worrisome for Fox, fantasy-wise, for the next season. At best, this puts him third on the depth chart, and he could be fighting with Deangelo for ice time. Even if Fox is the primary third-pair defender on the right side, it gives the Rangers an option to replace him if he goes through some rough patches.
It also gives the Rangers another number-1 to use on the power play. There are concerns about how he runs a power play – there are too many shots coming from the point when he’s on the ice, per shot charts from Hockey Viz – but I have faith that can be coached out of him.
I genuinely don’t know what the team is going to do here. On the one hand, they probably want to give Trouba as big a role as possible to try and keep him happy. On the other, Shattenkirk earns $6.65M each of the next two seasons and he’s most valuable on the power play. Per our own Frozen Tools, the team largely used four forwards on the PP last year. One of Shattenkirk or Trouba is going to get the short end of the stick. My bet is they use Shattenkirk, at least to start the year.
Two things about the Jets trading Trouba and his impending salary.
First, this would ostensibly give them more flexibility to sign Tyler Myers. Now, Myers is just a worse version of Trouba so I hope this isn’t the case. They’re already stuck with Bryan Little for five more years, adding another guy who will turn 30 this season to a long-term contract is, I don’t think, the best use of their cap space. But the door is now at least open.
Second, this gives a clear path to Sami Niku for regular NHL minutes, and potentially a lot of minutes. The team only has Dustin Byfuglien under contract for two more years with no other right-shooting defencemen demanding significant ice time. There is still a lot of time between now and opening night in October, but there’s a reality where Niku is on the second pair to start the year, Dynasty owners, rev your engines.
Where Pionk slots is a guess. He probably starts on the third pair but he had a terrible year with the Rangers, even when accounting for teammates and competition. Is this something that can get coached out of him? The Jets need to hope so, or else all this trade amounts to is getting back a mid-first round pick and some AHL depth. To get the most out of him, they need to use him on the second PP unit, and that could be bad news for Josh Morrissey and his fantasy value.
Who this helps
Who this hurts
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