The Winnipeg Jets have some very pressing decisions to make.
With their team anchored down in the basement, two points away from first shot at Auston Matthews but eight points out of a playoff spot, their season now sits on a knife-edge of "buy" or "sell" at the trade deadline. Captain Andrew Ladd still needs a new contract, and with Dustin Byfuglien signed to a new $7.6 million/year deal, the Jets staff have to decide whether to use that remaining cap space to consolidate what they have (a tricky prospect, with several key young RFAs like Mark Scheifele expecting pretty useful pay-rises this season as well as Ladd wanting to get paid a captain's salary)...
Or, they can sell and either run at the playoffs or prepare to reload.
Some of the most interesting trade rumors floating around, and also the most persistent, involve one of the Jets' prized assets...defenseman Jacob Trouba. The young American from Rochester, Michigan has been one of the key cornerstones of Kevin Cheveldayoff's "draft and develop" philosophy - now in his 3rd NHL season after spending one season in the NCAA, Trouba is coming to the end of his entry-level deal, and will likely require something of a pay-rise. So let's look at what the Bruins need to get him.
THE CASE FOR
A strong two-way defenseman with a booming shot, Trouba has had his ups and downs in the NHL...a superb rookie season was followed by growing pains as he established himself as a solid second-pair D in Manitoba. Recently, though, with uncertainty swirling about his demands post-RFA deal and play that has been strong but never really matched the way he's played in the first season, where he scored 10+19.
Although a lot of that may be to do with the fact that Winnipeg coaching staff are currently relying upon him to drag around Mark Stuart as his partner. Stuart is BAD. No, seriously. Here's a comparison of their play (as always, with thanks to OwnThePuck):
I mean...YIKES. Trouba might as well be dragging a ball and chain tied to his waist every shift. But would Trouba help Bruins' D get better? Well, he's strong on the penalty kill, motivated going forward and defending (two-way defensemen are what the Bruins need desperately right now, as we discussed yesterday) and he's well used to second-pair minutes.
He's also young, developing well and will be a relatively cheap contract for the next few years while still able to log big minutes. He gives the Bruins cap-space potential. Cap-space they desperately need thanks to deals like paying Adam McQuaid THREE MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS a year.
As a comparison, by the way, here are Trouba and McQuaid head-to-head. Which would you rather spend $3 million on?
"But Paul," you are no doubt saying at this point, "you're talking about Trouba as a second-pair D, which means you should compare him with the current B's second pair!" A fair point. So, here is Jacob Trouba vs Dennis Seidenberg ($4 million a year):
Erm...not much of a contest there, really, is it? It actually looks pretty even, all the way down to the last three-which are the key ones. Essentially, when it comes to defence, when Trouba is on the ice his team are generating shots at a level far above Seidenberg, while also preventing them at the same relative rate.
Essentially, the Bruins would both be far more effective offensively and stronger defensively at 5on5 with Trouba than Seidenberg. A significant jump in quality defensively for the same (or better) offensive output.
(for probably a considerably lower outlay financially).
Bear in mind that Trouba is also doing this while effectively dragging round the corpse of Mark Stuart's career as his D partner, and you start to see what an impact he could have.
So-there's your answer. YES. Jacob Trouba would be a SIGNIFICANT (in caps because it's that big) upgrade for the B's if dropped into their current top four when 5on5. He's also very strong on the penalty kill, as well, adding an extra weapon there.
Oh yeah...and there's also the fact that Trouba fits the "Justoneguy" D-man template that John postulated the Bruins needed on this very site back in November. Pretty damn well, in fact.
So, how do Bruins get him?
THE SALES PITCH
At this point, Winnipeg are looking for help like Kevan Miller facing Crosby & Malkin on a two-on-one...desperately. Their prospect system is among the stronger in the NHL, but it does have one big weakness...lack of depth at wing.
If only we knew a team with a deep prospect system who had depth at wing to burn...wait a second!
A lot depends here on what the Jets do with Andrew Ladd. If they're looking to keep him, then they'll need cap space to do so. That cap space will swallow up Trouba's money...even if the Jets, as is thought in Winnipeg, may use his slightly less consistent play as leverage to keep the price down.
The trouble is, the Bruins also have salary to move. They, too, are looking for cap space. Loui Eriksson for Jacob Trouba straight up would be ideal for cap purposes, but it wouldn't suit either team in terms of actual needs for the rest of the season. It would also be a fairly major overpayment given Eriksson's feats this season-and Winnipeg are unlikely to go for an expensive rental. They'll want cheap-with-potential, relatively young, or strong, solid but cheap veterans.
So let's say Don Sweeney picks up the phone. Here, he has several options. We've already ruled out the "big salary dump" trade here-well, at least when it comes to Loui.
However, defensively, there are options. Seidenberg, McQuaid, potentially (if Sweeney is brave) Zach Trotman or Joe Morrow. Even Kevan Miller.
The Jets are desperately short of left-handed defensemen, however. That opens the door for Seidenberg + sweeteners.
This would be the most beneficial to Boston by far (McQuaid, being injured, isn't going to be an option). However, that would likely require a fairly premium prospect as a sweetener in return for taking the cap hit.
Where Winnipeg will be looking with covetous eyes is at the wings/forwards in the prospect system - particularly on the right side. The two 2015 first-round picks will likely enter the discussion, even if only briefly. Luckily, there is depth here that could be used. Depth like Jesse Gabrielle, Western Canada boy.
For example-is this finally Alex Khoklachev's ticket out of Providence to a team that needs him playing up, not down? Throw him into the deal and suddenly, the Bruins are looking at giving up an aging left-handed D and a forward who they seem to have pegged as no more than an AHL/NHL tweener for a top-four in return...
OK, OK, that's still not going to be enough. However, this is the benefit of having a stupidly deep pool of both picks and prospects to dip into. Maybe a first is a little too much...but Edmonton's compensatory second? Suddenly the Jets have three picks in the top 50, someone to instantly plug into Trouba's spot (or allow them to finally jettison Mark Stuart) - and another young winger raring for an NHL chance.
This would be the dream deal for the Bruins. Trouba for Seidenberg, Khoklachev and a 2nd suddenly looks a very good one to a) free up salary and b) convince the Jets their needs are being filled. It also gives the Jets a younger few players to shore up their prospects and develop.
The simple fact is...the Jets are bad. They're pretty much in rebuild mode and ripe for the picking here. If the Bruins aggressively pursue Trouba, the resolve could weaken, particularly if the Jets are given resources in return.
If Seidenberg isn't an option, then Miller/Trotman/Morrow suddenly come into play. Morrow is the most likely option here, given his left shot.
However, the Bruins should be looking to drop Seidenberg into a deal here at every opportunity, particularly with a Winnipeg team who are looking for both veteran help and have the cap room to facilitate it.
It may be time to lock on and intercept a Jet in Boston.