Word came out the other day that Jacob Trouba has officially requested to be traded away from the Winnipeg Jets. The restricted free agent is still without a contract for the upcoming season, and it seems safe to assume that negotiations for a new contract haven’t gone very well.
Trouba is already a top-four NHL defenseman at the age of 22, so it stands to reason that he could be a big piece for nearly any NHL blue line. Not only that, he still has time to get even better as his prime years roll on.
Last year, he managed a 51.43% Corsi For at even strength while on the ice. He was also over 56% for even strength scoring chances, and exactly 54% Goals for. He chipped in 13 points at five-on-five, and 21 total if you consider all situations.
He’s not quite an offensive juggernaut, but he drives possession, doesn’t give up much at his end, and has shown an ability to contribute offensively. When he’s on the ice for the Jets, they stand a better chance of scoring than they do of being scored on, and that’s a great place to start for a defenseman.
So let’s get down to it: do the Montreal Canadiens have what it takes to make a deal? Well, the word is that Winnipeg basically wants a viable replacement for Trouba.
lots of teams have spoken with #nhljets about a trade for Jacob Trouba. Ask is very clear - left hand D of same calibre and age— gary lawless (@garylawless) September 25, 2016
A lefty of the same calibre and age. Montreal doesn’t really have that on their roster right now, but they do have Nathan Beaulieu, a player for whom management has apparently been entertaining offers.
Beaulieu is one year older, and his two-year bridge deal ($1 million cap hit) expires after this coming season. He has skated some top-four minutes for the Habs, but that was mostly out of necessity, and he arguably still needs some polishing in order to hold a consistent spot there.
Comparatively, there are some similarities beyond just their age and respective RFA situations.
Though it is somewhat close, Trouba is clearly the more accomplished overall player at this point. Beaulieu has an edge in the passing department, as well as shot suppression, but everything else comes up Trouba.
Neither of them had great help from their most common partners, either. Beaulieu was most commonly saddled with Tom Gilbert, and Trouba had to drag Mark Stuart around for a huge chunk of his season. So there is room for improvement with both of them, but you can’t deny that Trouba is the better player right now.
Straight up is probably not a deal that the Jets would consider. Marc Bergevin would probably have to throw in a draft pick, and/or a prospect to sweeten the deal, and you have to wonder how high the ask would be on either of those things.
Then consider this: losing Beaulieu frees up exactly $1 million in cap space, which would leave the Canadiens with just over $2 million to actually sign Trouba. Does anyone think he’s coming in at the $2-3 million range? Seems highly unlikely, if not impossible.
Bob McKenzie had some interesting points on the subject, using other deals around the league to set a range. The likes of Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones are at $5 and $5.4 million, respectively. Then you have Aaron Ekblad at $7.5 million. It could be very safe to say that Trouba’s value is somewhere in that range.
So, the low end of what could be Trouba’s asking price is probably somewhere in the $5-6 million range. If he’s trying to cash in, he could be asking even more, closer to $7 million. Simply put, Montreal almost definitely cannot afford him unless they shed more than Beaulieu. They’d essentially have no choice but to lose Andrei Markov or Alexei Emelin.
Markov is too old and close to retirement for anyone to legitimately think that the Jets would lose an asset like Trouba for him. Emelin is 30, and though he has skated plenty of top-four minutes for the Habs, I once again doubt that the Jets would view him as a viable replacement for their young defender.
So, based on the rumoured asking price, all the Habs really have to meet it is the aforementioned package of Beaulieu, plus a pick and/or a prospect. And even if they got such a deal done, there is a high likelihood that they can’t afford his asking price on the new contract.
I would really like to see Trouba on the Habs. He’s considerably better than Alexei Emelin, so if he eats up those minutes, the blue line looks quite a bit better. But again, would the Jets consider a slower, 30-year-old player to be capable of replacing Trouba? I think not.
The unfortunate reality is that this is a catch-22 situation. The deal they need to make to be able to sign him isn’t going to meet Winnipeg’s asking price, and the one that might wouldn’t leave them the space to sign him.
So it is not entirely impossible that the Habs could make a play for Trouba, but it is incredibly unlikely.