It is now mid-August and NHL training camp is about a month away. In an off season where some expected the Bruins to provide a spectacular fireworks show it has been more like watching the sparklers from the local gas station slowly burn. We all expected GM Don Sweeney to get a top defenseman, the “transitional” one he keeps talking about since he botched an opportunity at the trade deadline, but we have found that the price for defensemen is still pretty high. We were teased by the possibility of Kevin Shattenkirk putting on a Bruins jersey but that never happened. The good news is there is still time and there are still some defensemen out there to be had. Yet there is one in particular that I think would be a great fit with the Bruins.
I said in our Bruins Off Season Preview that I thought the Bruins should target Jacob Trouba (6’3″ 202 lb) of the Winnipeg Jets. Trouba, who is a restricted free agent, still has not signed a new contract with the Jets. Now there are rumors suggesting that he is asking for a lot of money so the Jets cannot or won’t sign him and it’ll be his ticket out of Winnipeg. Earlier in the off season it was rumored that the Bruins were going to throw an offer sheet at Trouba. Luckily that did not happen as it would have ruffled some GM’s feathers and possibly put a target on both David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano’s backs when they hit the restricted free agent market themselves. But the rumor of a Trouba offer sheet could have been just a play to get Winnipeg to panic like the Bruins did with Dougie Hamilton last off season and rush to trade the budding star. It had to at least made them examine their feelings on Trouba be a Jet long-term.
Last off season the Bruins were worried that a team like the Oilers where going to give Dougie Hamilton an offer sheet. Dougie had decided he no longer wanted to be a Bruin which put the Bruins in a bit of a corner so Sweeney traded him for a package of draft picks. The Jets have not gone that route with Trouba yet. The key word there is “yet”. There are a few hurdles for the Jets jump to get Trouba signed which could open the door just enough for a trade to Boston.
Reasons for the Jets to trade Trouba:
1. Salary Cap. The Jets are not a team that spends to the cap ceiling. They operate on an internal budget set by ownership where their cap is well below the one set by the NHL. It’s the main reason they traded Andrew Ladd last season as he didn’t fit the teams set budget. Currently the Jets are under the cap by a little under $7 million. Would the Jets be comfortable to pay Trouba $5 million a season and then only be under the cap by about $2 million dollars? History doesn’t seem to think so.
To put this into perspective, according to GeneralFanager.com the Jets finished last season a little over $12 million under the salary cap ceiling. It would seem doubtful that the Jets would be willing to start this season only being under the cap by about $2 million.
2. Expansion Draft. With the up coming NHL Expansion Draft in June of 2017 current NHL teams can only protect a max of 11 players including a goalie. In the max of 11 players they can only protect 3 defenseman. A team could protect more defensemen if they choose the second option of just 8 skaters and 1 goalie. Where it starts to get complicated is teams have to also protect players with “No Movement Clauses” in their contracts. The Jets currently have 2 defensemen with NMC’s in Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom. Old friend Mark Stuart has a no-trade as well. Plus, the Jets also have Tyler Myers on their roster and their own 1st round pick in 2013 (13th overall), defensive prospect Josh Morrissey, will have 2 years of pro service and will need to be protected too.
At the end of next season there is a chance if the Jets do sign Trouba that they will not be able to protect him from the expansion draft. I would think that the Jets wouldn’t want to lose him for nothing as he would surely be grabbed by Las Vegas. That scenario will certainly factor into them deciding whether to trade him sooner while they still control his rights in return for assets they value.
3. Is playing time and how he is being used an issue for Trouba? There has also been a rumor that Trouba is unhappy with the way he is used in Winnipeg. For a good portion of the season he was Mark Stuart’s partner. With Byfuglien, Enstrom, and Myers ahead of him on the power play depth chart he does not get a lot of special teams time to help pad his stats. That can affect his earning power in contract talks.
There is no doubt if Trouba was traded to the Bruins he would be on Zdeno Chara’s right side as the first defensive pairing as well as on the first power play unit. Beyond Torey Krug the Bruins really do not have a legit defenseman option for the power play so the minutes would be there for the taking.
How would Trouba fit in Boston?
Personally I think Trouba’s fit in Boston would be perfect. He would be on the top pairing instead of being on the 2nd or 3rd in Winnipeg. He would get power play time to improve his stats, and he would also be a solid bridge between the Chara era to the Charlie McAvoy and others era.
Trouba has already played 3 seasons in the NHL. By the time McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Brandon Carlo, Rob O’Gara, and Matt Grzelcyk are ready to play Trouba will be a 4 or 5 year NHL vet. Trouba and Krug would be able to take some of these kids under their wings and really form a strong Bruins defense for years to come. Without someone like Trouba once Chara is gone Krug will be the only hold over. I really like Torey Krug, but I do not like the thought of him being the sole “veteran” go-to defenseman on a Bruins team. Also, out of all of the B’s defensive prospects only McAvoy and Carlo are right hand shots. Trouba would give the Bruins a third right shot defenseman for the next half dozen years or more.
What’s the cost in acquiring Trouba?
There is no doubt that trading for Trouba would cost a lot. I would think it would have to start with next year’s 1st round pick and a couple of players. If the Bruins traded for Trouba there would be no need for Colin Miller with prospects Carlo and McAvoy coming in the Bruins fold in the near future. Miller would be able to jump into the Jets lineup this season and help fill the void of Trouba. The last piece to the deal would be a prospect or another pick. And as much as people feel moving David Krejci makes sense since Winnipeg is in need of a center and Boston just signed David Backes, Krejci’s cap number is most likely way too high for the Jets right internal budget. Krejci also has a no movement clause.
If the Bruins were able to trade for Jacob Trouba they would still need to sign him to a contract. The rumor is Trouba is looking for $5-6 million per year. Trouba is not that type of player just yet. Like most ideal bridge deals, Trouba would fall somewhere between Minnesota’s Matt Dumba (who didn’t do Trouba any favors with his $2.55M per season deal) and Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen ($4.875M per). It will be interesting to see what Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm ends up signing for as I would think Trouba should come in under Lindholm’s paycheck too.
This should not be a difficult negotiation and is why the possibility of a Trouba trade is real. There have been plenty of defensemen coming out of their entry level contracts over the past two summers signing comparative extensions. I would guess all this will be resolved before the World Cup of Hockey in mid-September. The Jets wouldn’t let Trouba play without a contract would they? Would Trouba risk injury and millions to play without a contract?
Bottom line from my perspective, the Bruins can’t be done making changes to their 2016-2017 roster. Who knows, if Jimmy Vesey decides to be a Bruin by the weekend it too could free up another player that sweetens the trade package just enough to acquire Trouba. Regardless, Jacob Trouba is exactly what the Bruins need for this season and for seasons to come.
Does anyone have Don Sweeney’s cell number so I can call or text him to make this happen? He seems like a text guy. Let’s get this done, Donny.