Why the Leafs should kick tires on Jacob Trouba

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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

Last night, the hockey world was stunned to hear that Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba’s contract situation had even more to it than what met the eye. What was believed to be yet another case of a restricted free agent being played in a game of chicken by his rightsholders turned out to be something a big bigger, as the 22-year-old defenceman had requested a trade months prior.

Here’s the official statement from his agent Kurt Overhardt:

“Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights. Both parties continue to work on this matter.

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership – our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”

In short, Trouba is a victim of circumstance. Thanks to the presences of Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers, he stands to either see a severe decrease of minutes, or a shift to his off-handed side. The consequences of off-handed play for defencemen have been talked about at length, including on this site, but it’s very rare to see a top-notch right-handed shot be the victim. Righties are rare, good righties are rarer, and a team having an abundance of them is practically a black swan event.

Now, it could be argued that Trouba is more deserving of an increased minute share than Myers, who generates a bit more on the scoresheet but doesn’t generate possession to the same degree. But that’s a decision that the team has made, has no plans of changing, and with three years remaining on his contract, is unlikely they’ll change in the near future.

Trouba further spoke with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman regarding the situation, and in doing so, noted that his issues have nothing to do with management, coaches, or the City of Winnipeg. He further noted that he doesn’t have much of a geographical preference for his new destination and is simply looking for a team that will give him minutes, and Friedman noted that in a similar situation, fellow Overhardt client Kyle Turris was quick to sign after finding a new home in Ottawa a few years prior.

So, we know where Trouba stands. But what does that have to do with the Leafs?

Well, it’s difficult to imagine that Toronto wouldn’t be an ideal situation for him from a playing perspective. I’m a bit more optimistic than most about the Leafs’ options on the right side; I think Nikita Zaitsev has proven himself to be capable in his KHL career, that Connor Carrick is probably at the over-ripened stage of his development, and that a healthy Frank Corrado is a good one. Certainly, Zaitsev’s World Cup performance has met the eye test for many and the latter two impressed late in the 2015/16 season.

But even with that in mind, it’s easy to be a bit skeptical that all three will fall into close-to-best case scenarios. After all, they have a combined total of 110 NHL games under their belts; hardly enough to make safe bets with. Trouba, on the other hand, is younger than both Zaitsev and Corrado, just weeks older than Carrick, and already has 211 games under his belt through three seasons. He’s had at least 65 games and 20 points in each of those years, and only in his rookie year did he post negative relative possession numbers (-0.91%). All signs point to the native of Rochester, Michigan being a genuinely good NHL defenceman, both now and in the future.

As such, it makes a lot of sense for the Leafs to be interested in him. The bigger question becomes whether they can pull off a trade, which is where this becomes much more complicated. The Jets, like the Leafs, are a team on the climbing stage of a rebuild, and might just be the only other team in the league with a prospect pool that keeps up to the one the blue and white currently possesses.

Perhaps what might interest the Jets more is some immediate help, and it’s not like the team can’t afford to take on some of it. General Fanager projects the Jets at $6.92 million in remaining cap space heading into the start of the season, with 18 forwards and 7 defencemen signed and considered. Most of those forwards will head to the American Hockey League or be placed on waivers, meaning that the actual amount of room that the team has is likely higher.

The fact that the Jets have so many forwards to play with makes a deal complicated, given that the Leafs are best suited to moving a bunch of them. Presently, they have so many useful but not game breaking attackers signed to contracts that line projects are leaving legitimate NHL prospects in the ECHL, leaving some people wondering if the team is preparing a trade similar to the Michael Grabner deal last September.

To make a deal like this work, you would likely have to start with a left-handed defenceman, a useful young forward, and some combination of prospects and picks. I’m not going to go all HFBoards on the situation, but I’d imagine Martin Marincin would be your starting point on left defence, someone of at least Brendan Leipsic’s pedigree (as far as age, potential upside, and pro-readiness) would be your forward, and the additional picks and prospects would have to be worked out from there. Again, exact proposals aren’t my strong point, and I imagine that the actual names would be more substantial. This is just a general idea of where I think a negotiation would go.

If a trade were to be done, the next step would be to get him signed. Some gossip has come about that Trouba wants upwards of $7 million, but that might be more to make it worth his while to stay on a team that isn’t set up for him to blossom. Morgan Rielly’s $5 million contract and Tyson Barrie’s $5.5 million deal are probably fairer comparables in this situation. Toronto presently has an overage of $694,000, but that’s with 14 forwards, 7 defencemen, no triggering of Nathan Horton’s LTIR, and the assumption of a loss in the Jared Cowen arbitration case. Swinging one more big deal is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

It’s just a matter of whether they think Trouba is the big deal they’re looking for. However, with his combination of age, pedigree, and ability to fill a perceived weakness, he just might be.

  • Hardy

    I like the idea of Marincin+leipsic++ but ive heard Garinders name a lot.
    Thoughts on Gardiner + Kapanen/Timashov?
    Either way if we get him the leafs D core will look amazing
    Rielly Trouba
    Marincin/Gardiner Zaitsev
    Hunwick Carrick
    Dermott Corrado
    Nielsen Polak

    Damn

    • Kanuunankuula

      Trading Jake is like taking a step forward and going 0.8 steps back. I’d avoid it if possible. Tbh I think Trouba’s price is going to be to high for the leafs.

    • Giproc

      Zero chance. Corrado was a waiver pickup and Kappy’s stock is still too low to entertain thoughts of trading him. If the Jets bit on this, great, but it’s not nearly enough.

  • Harte of a Lion

    The Jets will ask for Gardiner and Nielsen and I say NO to both players. Is Trouba the answer to our defence? He would help but doesn’t turn the Leafs into contenders if we lose Gardiner. Nielsen could be the best prospect on the back end that the team has drafted since Rielly.
    Slow and steady she goes, patience is necessary.
    Unless we can get Trouba for Marincin, Leipsic and a second, let someone else trade for him.
    Now that he is sitting out, does Kevin Cheveldayoff have the cojones of Yzerman?
    Has there ever been a trade between Cheveldayoff and Lamoriello? I’m too lazy today to dig through the Internet

  • Klas

    Honestly, I just wanna see what we have as a team on the ice “RIGHT NOW” and worry about trades come January. This could be a breakout season for one of our young d prospects. You never know.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Training camp has now been open for five days. No news at all on that. No idea how Marner, Nylander, Nielsen, Dermott. and the rest of our prospects are doing.. Whose playing with who? Are we just waiting for Matthews to join the camp today so we can be told how good he is every day?

    • Giproc

      LeafsTV has been airing the scrimmmages so you could see for yourself. There are tons of interviews on YouTube with the players and coaching staff. A couple of blogs have a steady diet of info from the camp. Not sure where you’ve been camping.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        Ok thanks. I will re-check Leafs TV. I have read the interviews but they are mostly cliche ridden overused, superficial, expressions. Which blogs have steady diet of camp into?

        PS…. I prefer to get my information here at LeafNation. This should be the number 1# site for it, with good analysis and commentary from us punters. I can and do search around for extras. I am also camping here in the Philippines using limited (800mb per day) satellite internet feed. That gives me about 15/20 minutes of YouTube as they use a lot of bandwidth, for their high definition broadcasts.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    According to Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, Jared Cowen is no
    longer a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster and does not appear
    to be a factor in their cap situation entering the new season.

    As far as #Leafs salary cap, Jared Cowen is officially bought out. His arb hearing will determine if buy-out was legal. He is not on roster

    The suggestion here is that the NHL allowed the buyout to proceed
    normally for cap purposes for the time being. In arbitration scheduled
    for early-to-mid October, the two sides will argue over whether Cowen is
    owed the full amount of his 2016-17 salary — $4.5 million — because he
    was not healthy enough to be bought out, or if the Leafs owe him only a third of the $4.5 million because it was a legal under-26 buyout.

    After removing Jared Cowen from the Leafs roster,
    replacing him a cap credit of $650,000 and adding Nikita Zaitsev, the
    Leafs have about $2 million in cap space with a 25-man roster presently.
    Pared down to 23, the Leafs would have over $3 million cap space
    without using any Long Term Injury Reserve relief. Cushion underneath
    the cap would be available to account for the performance bonuses
    achievements of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and
    company that will be applied at season’s end.

  • Stan Smith

    Why the Leafs shouldn’t kick the tires on Trouba. The Jets will want a lot for him. He wants $7M a year over 8 years. Is he that much better than Rielly, who makes $2M less for 2 years less? What happens if after 2 years he feels he doesn’t like it here any better than Winnipeg. My thinking is thanks but no thanks.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Re- ” Is he that much better than Rielly,” ……. NO !

      He is playing third line pairing for Winnipeg. They main reason it is unlikely we could make a trade for him is Winnipeg doesn’t really need good prospects and we can not afford to trade any of our few established NHL guys. Still it is possible something could be worked out but unlikely.

      • Tecari

        Actually trouba was pairing first line with byfugilen, trouba is a right shot playing the left side though for right shot byfugilen. Trouba and Rielly are pretty equal, lot of smart guys say Rielly is better a lot say Trouba. Both are strong offence first d men with fairly average defensive capabilities. No harm in taking a look, seeing what it would take, but what winnipeg would want I don’t think I’d be willing to give up.

    • Giproc

      The 7million floated was a way to put the focus on money rather than his trade requrest months ago. i suspect his actual expectation is the 5 range. No chance he gets more than Mo’s 5 million from the Leafs, but perhaps the Yotes might take that bite.

  • DukesRocks

    Winnipeg will be looking for the haul like they got in the Evander Kane trade. Thank you but i’ll take my chances with Conner Carrak.

    Reilly Zaitsev
    Gardner Carrak

      • Tigon

        These are names I start with, I never said this would be the offer. Bodies have to be moved. Leivo would have to pass through waivers if we keep Michalek, Laich and Greening over him. Holland has been rumoured to go all last season. No loyalty to Corrado as a non-draft pick.

        Holland is a natural centre. Leipsic is also a LW and was mentioned in the article. Leivo is the better player, even still Leivo is right handed so switch his side if you wanna complain.

        Who cares if a player was a waiver pickup. I can give you a whole list of those guys: St. Louis, Bryzgalov, Craig Anderson, Ray Whitney, Dominic Moore, Mark Recchi, Chris Kunitz, Chris Osgood, Jussi Jokinen, Thomas Hickey, Grabner, Steve Sullivan, Peverley, Satan, Briere…..get off your he was a waiver wire pickup horse.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Winnipeg would not be remotely interested in your package, as it is basically three AHL players. Holland was just waived and they could of had him for nothing.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Looks like the Jets management plan is to wait until the first 10 games, or longer, have been played. Some teams will notice their expected improvements turned into a disaster, That is the reason Trouba’s agent has gone public, and he is not coming to training camp. Jets have had since May to make a deal. As DukesRocks says, they are looking for a big haul from a desperate team. Teams may not get desperate until halfway through the season when it looks like they may miss the playoffs.

  • Butch Jonsson

    Nothing but upside for Trouba. He plays tons of minutes, is strong, is fast, and shoots well. Leafs need D and could afford to give up some strong forwards. For this deal to work, Chevy will have to see that Jets are not just breaking even – Jets will have to win the trade. And if the leafs don’t bite, one of the other 28 teams will.

    • FlareKnight

      Then let them.

      The Leafs have been making smart efforts to improve and overpaying for Trouba wouldn’t be smart. You find a guy like Zaitsev who upgrades your blueline and only costs money. Continue to draft and develop. Make smart trades and pick up guys like Carrick.

      If another team wants to go nuts and pay the ransom then let them do it.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        Right… The plan was to rebuild through the draft instead of trades and free agents. It has put us in an exciting position already. Why deviate now when it is still early days? The first defencemen Mark Hunter drafted are just now getting their first look at professional hockey. This is where we really do have to have some patience.