How Trouba fell into Gorton’s lap


It never made any sense from the beginning. When the Rangers announced the trade last night for Jacob Trouba, the return the Winnipeg Jets got was for a better description, severely lacking.

So, how did they only wind up with Neal Pionk and the original number 20 pick in the first round that they sent to the Blueshirts with Brendan Lemieux to rent Kevin Hayes? Let’s take a closer look as to why.

Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff knew it was time to move Trouba. After completing a one-year contract in which the 25-year old defenseman made $5.5 million, he was a year away from unrestricted free agency in 2020. Considering that the Jets must sign young scoring forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor to big extensions, they were backed into a corner.

With other key decisions coming on Andrew Copp (RFA), who ironically enough is one of Trouba’s closest friends due to playing together since they were kids, they couldn’t afford the expected $7.5 million average the Group II American defenseman will command. For Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, who has more cap space available, it was a no-brainer.

What about the other side? How did the Jets go from having so many interested suitors to them suddenly dropping out due to a complex situation that helped Gorton land the top pair right defenseman? None of the teams were permitted to talk to Trouba about signing him. So, instead of getting a much better return, Winnipeg basically got stuck due to other interested teams backing out.

Basically, the Rangers got lucky here. That’s why Pionk and the original Winnipeg first round pick were enough for Gorton to steal Trouba. He still must be signed. It’s just a matter of time before it happens. As for Trouba, this wasn’t a case of him disliking playing for the Jets. On the contrary, he enjoyed his time spent there which included helping them beat the Predators in a sexy Western Conference second round match-up last year to advance to the first ever Conference Final in team history.

There was just no way for Winnipeg to keep a good player, who should definitely help improve the Rangers back end. Something Cheveldayoff alluded to in a piece that appeared on NHL.com.

“This was a necessary first step for us to take and we’ll move on to the next,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “With the opportunity not to get a long-term deal (with Trouba) in Winnipeg here, we just felt it was best to open up the door to the possibility of trading him and today’s the day we finalized it.”

We’d love to keep everybody, and we’d love to have enough cap space to sign everybody to the extensions that they deserve. We’d love to take another swing with the group we have here, but there’s realities in a hard-cap world, and we’re fortunate to have some great young players in our organization.”

And so, Trouba moves from Winnipeg to the Big Apple. Once he signs on the dotted line, he’ll become a key veteran who is a big part of the Rangers rebuild moving forward. Projected new partner Brady Skjei is familiar with him from their days representing Team USA.

How it all shakes out depends on the rest of the summer. Get ready for Friday night. The main attraction comes early on in the highly anticipated first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. The Hudson rival Devils are expected to select top American center Jack Hughes, which would leave highly rated Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko for the Rangers to grab at number two.

Having already signed Russian imports Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin and Yegor Rykov, the Ranger organization are taking the necessary steps to becoming a real player in the future. Gorton has a tough decision regarding power forward Chris Kreider. The 28-year old veteran will enter the final year of a contract that pays him a cap average of $4.625 million through 2020. Both Gorton and new Team President John Davidson must decide whether it’s best to keep Kreider by extending him to a new deal that’ll range in the neighborhood of between $6.5 to $7 million AAV.

If they decide not to keep him, it’s possible Kreider could get moved as soon as this weekend. Who knows? They could decide to shop him for another first round pick and a prospect. Especially if it means filling another team need at center behind Mika Zibanejad. Youngsters Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson and Brett Howden aren’t ready for a top six role at the center position.

Much also depends on what else they decide to do. If you view the new Rangers blueline, the projected top three right D are Trouba, Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox. If that’s indeed the case, it could be Adios Kevin Shattenkirk. Ditto for serviceable vet Brendan Smith.

Freeing up more cap space could still mean a run at Artemi Panarin. We’ll have to wait and see what their plans are.

Stay tuned.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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