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NHL Free Agency: Boston media and the curious case of Jacob Trouba's offer sheet

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Jacob Trouba is apparently a Boston target. Or is he? Rumors emerged last night of the Winnipeg Jet being a target of a MASSIVE offer sheet that may cost Boston four first round picks. But is it really likely? How much is just another media creation? We examine the facts more closely

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Have you heard? Boston are preparing a monster contract offer for Jacob Trouba,

According to a rumor that's being widely reported across hockey media as of last night, the Boston Bruins are apparently preparing an approach for the Winnipeg Jets RFA.

However, given the B's draft picks situation and the compensation required to be given should Trouba accept the offer, there are only two possible ranges the offer could fall in...under $1.3 million a year...or $9 million plus...a contract that would see the Bruins give up their next four first rounders as compensation were it to come through.

That's...a LOT of money for a 22-year-old defenseman with only 200 NHL games under his belt. Trouba is undoubtedly a good player. In fact, when rumours were floating of the Jets looking to move him at the trade deadline, we examined the case for him quite extensively. Back then, we were thinking that even Loui Eriksson would be too much of an overpayment, however:

"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."

And as for options with the first round draft picks the B's had in 2015...

"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, if only briefly."

So...in three months we've gone from a player that Boston were unwilling to trade the expiring contract of Loui Eriksson for (a player, let's remember, who is now all but certain to be allowed to leave as an UFA) along with a package from a deep prospect pool to a 22-year-old defenseman who "sources" are telling NHL media is suddenly going to be offered the most lucrative AAV contract in the NHL right now (with the possible exception of Steven Stamkos, who is the dictionary definition of a superstar)

A superstar, let's not forget, who the Bruins are also supposed to be chasing and apparently actually have a decent shot at come July 1st.

Not only that, but Trouba is considered so valuable by the Bruins all of a sudden that they're prepared to give up their next four first round choices and tie up nearly half of their available cap space in a player they weren't even willing to commit a serious run at at the deadline?

Well, no, unless Don Sweeney has somehow found a form of negotiation that will make Trouba consider and accept an offer sheet that is less than he's currently on...and that's the kind of mind control that if developed would probably see him spirited away in a black helicopter from TD Garden by mysterious men in suits the moment the contract got signed.

Something pretty damn major must have happened in the past few months - either that or the Bruins have suddenly reached previously unheard-of levels of panic in the front office. How on EARTH have we reached this point?

More to the point-where did this rumor break? Where did it come from? Who has the inside track to this seismic change in attitude of the Bruins front office? Can we find any clues here?

Most NHL national media sources are citing CSNNE as the place where the first official report came out. At this point, if you're a close follower of Boston media, alarm bells should be ringing.

They certainly were for me...so I went looking back through NHL media sources and social media to see if I could find out the first report of this rumor...and...well, here it was.

Ah yes, Jimmy Murphy. We know all about Jimmy Murphy. As one of Boston's foremost hockey gossip-mongers and hot-take merchants, he's well known for throwing out all sorts of "insider" information. The trouble is...it very, very rarely turns out to be true.

The thing is, though... unlike our old friend Eklund, people still listen to "Murph." And this is where we see the Trouba rumor take off.

You see, where Jimmy Murphy is around, Joe Haggerty is not far behind. The CSNNE reporter is jelly to Murphy's peanut butter. Like lightning following thunder or rubberneckers looking at a car crash, when Murphy tweets something, Haggerty is on the scene and throwing his voice and opinion around moments later, as welcome as a fart in a bank vault. As two men with a well-known friendship, he'll often cite Murphy too, despite the numerous previous occasions Murphy's been wrong.

And so it proved here.

Let's examine the opinion here. Four first round picks for a "number 1 defenseman" is worth it, apparently.

Yet Kevin Shattenkirk, apparently, is not worth arguably less.

Here's a question...would you trade four first rounders for David Pastrnak, however good he is? You probably would at least consider it, right? But Haggerty is now arguing that apparently B's could consider Jacob Trouba worth $9 million dollars AND more than Kevin Shattenkirk as a number one defenseman.

Erm...Joe, are you sure? Is that really your considered opinion? Or are you just trying to drive a rumor and give it some traction because...surprise, you're just about to report on it?

Speaking of that report - after DIRECTLY quoting Murphy as the initial source of the rumour, Haggerty suddenly changes to "a source" when he produces the article.

From there, all hell suddenly breaks loose, as it's picked up by hockey media sources all over the internet both local and national...and that's where we are this morning.

And guess what site they're linking to? Guess which writers' names are getting used as the initial insiders to break this story that's suddenly dominating NHL media?

Yup. The Boston journalists who started it all, based on a simple tweet from a writer who's probably got a better record of accuracy predicting what the Bruins will order as their post game meal then...y'know, actual hockey rumors. Journalists who in the past have managed to get wrong that their assistant captain missed practice due to his wife giving birth (they said he had flu instead) and caused the Bruins GM to publicly disown rumors they'd stated as "very credible."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a textbook example of what we call "the impact rumor"...an outlandish but just vaguely plausible discussion that is guaranteed to get the originator all manner of clicks on their page and national attention for starting it...as long as people don't look too closely. It's clickbait disguised as news.

It's a play that the Boston media have used many times - in fact, we wrote a whole article on it explaining exactly how this stuff works last year.

And yet, once again, the NHL media have fallen for it.

If the Bruins ARE preparing a monster offer sheet for Jacob Trouba, then they are exhibiting a truly major change in approach and attitude to this FA period. They're trying to solve their defensive problems at one fell swoop, putting all their eggs in one basket in a move that could be disastrous for the long term future AND the B's cap space - as well as saddling them with a potential albatross of a contract that, incidentally, will be among the most expensive ever handed out in the NHL. That's the bald truth.

If not, then once again, two Boston-area journalists with more of an eye on self-promotion than factual reporting have pulled off the same trick they've pulled off many times before, and that's not good for continued trust in NHL reporting.

Either way, the Bruins will lose.