With less than 48 hours to go before his arbitration date, Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets are reportedly millions apart in valuation for the top-pairing defenseman.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Wednesday that Trouba is looking for $7 million per season while the Jets, at the moment, are sitting at the $4-million mark instead.
This isn’t unusual for a team to be low-balling ahead of an arbitration case while a player shoots for the moon — it’s an oft-used strategy.
Trouba’s underlying numbers suggest he’s among the league’s best rearguards, but when it comes to goals and assists, he doesn’t show as well. And with Trouba, there’s always the question about his durability, having completed 81 games just once in his career and never playing more than 65 in a season in his four other seasons in the NHL.
Arbitration is no fun for either side, where the dirty laundry is aired and teams tell players why they don’t deserve the money they think they do. But it appears increasingly likely that Trouba’s July 20 date will come to fruition in what would be a first for the Winnipeg Jets and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff since the team relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.
The Jets also have forward Adam Lowry (July 22), Brandon Tanev (July 25) and Marko Dano (July 30) with scheduled arbitration hearings. Last week, the Jets handed Vezina runner-up Connor Hellebuyck a six-year, $37 million contract, avoiding a potential arbitration hearing with him as well.
Looking at the comparables likely doesn’t favor Trouba and his current valuation of himself.
Take for instance Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s in the third year of a six-year deal that sees him pocketing $5.4 million per season.
Jones had 57 points last year, including a career-high 16 goals.
Trouba finished the season with three goals and 24 points and has eclipsed 30 just once (33) in his five-year career.
Colton Parayko also comes to mind.
The St. Louis Blues d-man signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal last summer after a 35-point season and put up the same total in 2017-18.
Another deal that can be used as a comparison is Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators. Josi signed a seven-year, $28 million deal prior to the 2013-14 season.
In the two years before signing the deal, Josi’s numbers were comparable to Trouba’s and Josi is now likely going to get a significant pay raise after hovering around the 50-point mark for the past four seasons.
The end game, at least this season, likely results in a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 to $5.5 million for Trouba. The Jets have the option to give Trouba two years, but he would become an unrestricted free agent following the 2019-20 season, so a one-year deal makes sense for the Jets and will put both sides in the same scenario next season if a long-term deal isn’t hashed out before then.
Both sides have said they’d like to commit to one another long-term. The Jets would like to see Trouba’s production go up, and if he can hit the 45-50-point window this season, there’s a good chance there wouldn’t be a second arbitration case but rather a long-term deal to stick in Winnipeg.
Trouba has been given everything he wanted after initially wanting out of Winnipeg two years ago. He’s on a contender playing on one of the league’s best shutdown tandems and commanding big minutes every night.
If he wants to get paid like an elite defenseman, he needs to score like one and will have every opportunity to earn the raise next summer, assuming the Jets hand him a one-year deal after their arbitration hearing on Friday.
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• The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is investigating after one of its workers made a homemade sign calling for the ousting of Eugene Melnyk. (Ottawa Citizen)
• The New York Rangers coaching a staff is going to have a distinct Boston University feel to it next season. (College Hockey News)
• Should the Boston Bruins make any more moves this offseason? (WEEI)
• The New York Islanders should leave the Barclays Center and Brooklyn behind after next season. (IslandersPointBlank)
• The Nashville Predators have managed to widen the window they have to win the Stanley Cup. (Pred Lines)
• The Florida Panthers have one prospect, Henrik Borgstrom, who stands as their best and brightest, and maybe their key to pulling the trigger on a trade to bring in a big name. (The Puck Under the Sun)
• A quick check on the rebuild happening in Detroit shows that while it’s not without its flaws, it appears to be moving in the right direction. (The Sporting News)
• Is Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford done dealing this summer? (Penguin Poop)
• Marred by the gong show that is Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, here’s a look at the least evil owners in the NHL. (Welcome to your Karlsson Years)
• A new NHL team in Seattle means a new AHL team to keep all the kids on the farm. Where will that farm be? (NHL To Seattle)
• Flames GM Brad Treliving has finally filled a hole that has existed in Calgary’s lineup for seven years. (Flames from 80 feet)
• A look at if NHL contracts should include an opt-out option. (Devils Army Blog)
• With Kyle Dubas now steering the ship, is there a way back into the good graces of Mike Babcock for some out in the doghouse? (Editor in Leaf)
• Should the NHL start up a summer league? (Gotham Sports Network)
During this time of year, you’re going to see plenty of modest, low-risk signings that usually work out nicely for the teams involved. To an extent, that’s just how restricted free agency works.
Of course, there’s also the notion that players and teams want to avoid salary arbitration hearings, as tears and hard feelings often happened as executives would sometimes ruthlessly argue against someone making extra money.
(Seriously, those discussions might as well have been sponsored by Kleenex.)
It’s nice when you can describe these deals as a win for both sides, and that seems to be the case as the New York Rangers agreed to a two-year “bridge” deal with forward Jimmy Vesey. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that the cap hit will be $2.275 million per season.
All things considered, that’s perfectly fine.
Vesey, 25, hasn’t exactly justified the hype from “#VeseyWatch,” although considering how slow things can be around the time that sweepstakes heat up for unsigned college free agents, should we really complain?
Predators fans probably shouldn’t complain all that much about Vesey opting against signing with Nashville after they drafted him in the third round (66th overall) in 2012, as he hasn’t exactly been lighting the NHL on fire.
In 2017-18, Vesey scored 17 goals and 28 points in 79 games, numbers that were virtually identical to his 2016-17 stats (16 goals, 27 points in 80 contests). Considering that his highest TOI average was 14:20 per night so far during his NHL career, there’s some reason to believe that Vesey could be a more prolific scorer if given additional opportunities.
The problem is that possession stats indicate that the ice tilts in the wrong direction when Vesey is on the ice, though. He’s been a negative influence in that regard, even relative to Rangers teammates.
On the other hand, the Rangers’ issues were likely at least partially systemic, so Vesey could end up thriving thanks to a coaching change that sees David Quinn replace Alain Vigneault.
And that’s where this contract really makes a lot of sense.
The Rangers get to find out if Vesey should be part of the foundation for their rebuild. If not, the term is manageable and the price tag is very fair for a player who – for whatever faults – almost scored 20 goals despite marginal ice time.
From Vesey’s perspective, he gets a chance to prove that he’s worth a heftier, longer-term contract.
It’s all pretty sensible stuff. It’s up to Vesey to show that the Rangers should’ve tried to lock him down for more years, and also to silence anyone who might gripe about all the attention he received not too long ago.
The New Jersey Devils making a big, splashy (usually smart) move was starting to feel like a summer tradition along the lines of waterslides and family vacations.
Such aggression paid off pretty tangibly, too, as Taylor Hall won a Hart Trophy while leading the Devils to an unlikely berth in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Many franchises would take this as a sign to continue pushing chips further into the table. Instead, the Devils are electing – at least currently – to stay quiet, including allowing trade deadline additions Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner to walk.
That trend continued on Tuesday, as the Devils locked down some in-house supporting cast members to affordable contracts. GM Ray Shero handed Blake Coleman a three-year contract that carries a $1.8 million cap hit, while Stefan Noesen signed for one year at a similar $1.75M AAV.
Coleman, 26, seems like a solid enough bet. He generated 13 goals and 25 points in 79 games last season despite a modest 8.9 shooting percentage and equally modest reps (an average of 14:24 TOI per game). Considering heavy usage in the defensive zone, his possession stats were respectable.
The story is more or less the same for Noesen, 25. He scored 13 goals and 27 points in 72 games despite even sparser ice time (13:17 on average) and managed even stronger possession stats while being placed in comparable defensive situations as Coleman.
Overall, this seems like solid stuff for useful (but not ground-breaking) players.
Maybe most importantly, the Devils seem like they aren’t putting too much weight in a postseason run that might be difficult to replicate. At the very least, New Jersey can’t reasonably ask Hall to improve on his fantastic 2017-18 campaign; anything close to that would be gravy.
Granted, there are a few things that actually could shake out better.
Most obviously, Cory Schneider might get his game back together. Despite two consecutive seasons you could probably describe as “backup-level,” his career save percentage remains strong at .920. Maybe this is the “new reality” for the 32-year-old netminder, but there’s also the chance that he might get his game back together. Goalies are tough to predict.
Regardless, the Devils must continue to wade through the Metropolitan Division, which has produced the past three Stanley Cup winners. Alongside those Capitals and Penguins, it’s likely that the Blue Jackets, Flyers, and Hurricanes will be formidable in 2018-19. If New Jersey takes a step back, at least it wouldn’t be after signing risky free agents. They’d probably generally be better off waiting for opportunities to strike, as they’ve done in the past.
(Speaking of leveraging opportunities, perhaps Marcus Johansson will enjoy better health luck next season? His concussion issues ranked as one of the things that didn’t break well for the Devils during what was otherwise a remarkable season.)
No NHL team really gets everything right, and a fair amount of luck is involved in building a winner, but smart franchises try to pile up as many smart moves as possible. Shero’s getting a lot of the big ones right, yet this summer, it seems like he’s making some solid, smaller calls.
Then again, maybe he’s just biding his time for another surprise?