As everyone knows by now Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba was awarded a $5.5M settlement by the NHL’s appointed league arbiter. The Jets had the option of choosing a one or two year term and it’s safe to assume they will be choosing a one year term to avoid bridging Trouba right into Unrestricted Free Agent. This settlement was the mid-point of the Team and Trouba’s camp’s asks going into arbitration. So what does this mean for both parties? I attempt to break that down.
In the day of social media and minute by minute news, Winnipeg Jets fans across various platforms went into a frenzy the news broke. Many demanding a Trouba trade “asap”, or suggesting he turned down a “fair market contract, likely in the range of $6M across 6 years.” I’d like to start off by saying only 3 groups of people know what or what didn’t happen over the past week. Those groups being the arbiter, Trouba’s camp, and Winnipeg Jets’ management. We may see leaked information over the next week that can help us understand things better, but as of today, none of that exists. Neither party should come out of this, as of today, being looked at negatively. This is merely the business side of thing’s, no one should have hurt feelings over it.
With that in mind, let’s start by looking at what this means for Jacob Trouba. From where I’m sitting, I would suggest this $5.5M award on a one year deal is a win financially. This award likely means Trouba’s two years as an RFA total $11-11.5M total which is significant in years that are considered “Cost controlled”. It also means that if the popular theory that Trouba “turned down a likely 6/36” contract offer from the Jets, his camp would be perfectly right in doing so. He is two years away from UFA status and having 31 teams freely able to bid on his services, and if you look ahead his only real competition at the top of that market is fellow Central Division blue liner Alex Pietrangelo. In summary, Jacob Trouba is likely going to get paid somewhere in the $7-8 million range per year on the open market in two years time. His agent and him are merely maximizing their situations in a system that allows them to do so, as they should.
As for the Jets, what does this mean? First off, they have cost certainty and likely saved around $1M in cap space which is ever so important for the team this year. This can lead to opportunities where the team opens the season under the cap and have that available cap space pro-rate until the deadline, thus giving the team more room to maneuver if they decide to look for upgrades on the roster. Their top defenseman is signed up at a very affordable price for the coming year, a year in which the team has Stanley Cup aspirations. These aspirations are why I would be opposed, depending on return, to trading Trouba this season. GMKC must manage both the future but also the now, and in the now with a chance to win the big prize, Trouba’s value is greater to this organization than elsewhere. This is all good for the team in the short term.
The long term however is left with many question marks. Trouba is their best defenseman, and in the prime of his career. He is a big part of the teams future as much as the now. Though, after January 1st if the team and Trouba can’t come together and agree on a long term deal it becomes a very real possibility that Jacob Trouba is traded during the summer of 2019, one year away from unrestricted free agency. Dependent on what the return in a trade is the Jets right handed D strength, would suddenly look like a potential weakness. If Trouba left and a replacement wasn’t acquired, the Jets right side has a 34 year old Dustin Byfuglien, and a relatively unknown Tucker Poolman. Tyler Myers may or may not be in that equation as he’s an UFA himself next summer, and based on his perceived value an extension isn’t something I’d be welcome to seeing.
Looking two years down the line surely shows how valuable Jacob Trouba truly is to the continued success of this organization. IF, and it truly is an IF, this situation is merely about money it’s become apparent the Jets may need to bite the bullet and pay a price that may be higher than they feel comfortable at. IF it’s about something other than money, Chevy now has two years to start looking for contingency plans with a resolution potentially coming as early as next summer in those contingencies. Until then, let’s enjoy a team that can fight for a Stanley Cup before tough decisions have to be made.