Jets Trade Trouba To Rangers
The Winnipeg Jets have traded defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the history of difficult contract negotiations between Trouba and the Jets, it’s no surprise the 25-year-old defenseman is heading to the Rangers. His current one-year, $5.5-million contract was awarded by an arbiter last July. He’s once again a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, only now he’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status.
A 25-year-old top-pairing blueliner coming off a career-best 50-point performance, Trouba was in line for a lucrative new contract. With the Jets facing a salary-cap crunch this summer, he wasn’t going to get it from them. Young scoring winger Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are RFAs coming off their entry-level contracts and in line for big raises of their own. With over $57 million invested in 14 players, there wasn’t enough room to re-sign all three and leave enough to fill out the rest of their roster.
Pionk, 23, is a skilled puck-moving rearguard who put up a respectable 26 points in his sophomore season with the rebuilding Rangers. He logged top-four defense minutes with the Blueshirts and can expect more of the same with the Jets. Like Laine and Connor, Pionk is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract. Unlike those two, he’ll be an affordable re-signing for the Jets. In time, perhaps, he’ll offset the absence of Trouba.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff also got back the first-round pick he shipped to the Rangers at the trade deadline as part of the deal for center Kevin Hayes. With Trouba gone, Cheveldayoff could increase efforts to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Tyler Myers.
Still, it’s a disappointing return for Trouba. There was an expectation he could fetch an established top-pairing defenseman or perhaps a scoring center to line up alongside Laine. However, this might not be the only move Cheveldayoff has in store in the coming days. Perhaps his recently reacquired first-round pick could be used in a package to bring in a better asset.
Landing Trouba is a significant addition to a Rangers’ defense corps that struggled throughout 2018-19. He’ll automatically become their first-pairing, right-side defenseman.
The Rangers certainly got the better of this deal. Now, they have to re-sign him. Trouba could seek around $8 million annually on a long-term deal. With over $63 million invested in 19 players, they have the cap space to do it but it’ll push their payroll to over $71 million.
That could crimp their rumored efforts to pursue a high-scoring forward like Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene via the UFA market. Recent speculation suggests the Rangers could attempt to cut costs by trading or buying out a veteran defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk or Brendan Smith.