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Jets would send wrong message caving to impetuous players

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/9/2016 (1488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Well, this much is clear -- Jacob Trouba and his agent would do us all a favour if they could at least get their story straight.

Because right now, the only gulf wider than the one separating Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets is the one separating what Trouba had been saying just days ago about the state of those talks and what his agent is now saying.

Jacob Trouba</p>

Jacob Trouba

Pick a version, fellas. We don’t even care which one. But at the moment, you’re just insulting our intelligence, while simultaneously calling your own into question.

It is impossible to reconcile -- at least with a straight face -- what the Jets defenceman told the Free Press less than two weeks ago about the state of his contract negotiations with the Jets and what his agent, Kurt Overhardt, told the world Saturday night about those same negotiations.

The list of discrepancies between the relatively rosy and optimistic picture Trouba painted to the Free Press with the apocalyptic version of events Overhardt described in a news release issued on the eve of a Canada Russia hockey game is so long as to be laughable.

But hey, everyone could use a good laugh, right? So let’s compare and contrast what Trouba told the Free Press on Sept. 14 with what Overhardt said in his news release on two principal issues.

 

On the state of talks with the Jets

 

Trouba on Sept. 14: "They’re dealing with it. Kurt’s talking to Chevy. They’re going back and forth and talking."

Overhardt on Sept. 24: "There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months."

--On whether there is any doubt Trouba will be in the Jets lineup on opening night:

Trouba on Sept. 14: "Not in my mind."

Overhardt on Sept. 24: "Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights."

Bwahaha. You crazy kidders.

Never mind whether the Jets and Trouba have been talking; I’d argue the better question right now is whether Trouba and his agent have been talking the last couple weeks.

And the discrepancies don’t end there. Indeed, these two guys weren’t even on the same page on the one issue Overhardt says is a deal-breaker -- Trouba’s desire to play more on the right side of the defence because he is a right-handed shot.

"The situation is not about money," Overhardt wrote in his release, "it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman."

Is that right?

Well it just so happens that a lot of my interview with Trouba on Sept. 14 -- I tracked him down in Pittsburgh after a pre-tournament World Cup game involving Team North America -- centred on Trouba’s desire to play a larger role -- with the Jets -- and, yes, his hope to play more on the right side -- of the Jets defence

Indeed, Trouba’s desire for a bigger role and more right-side play were the first two paragraphs of the column I wrote about that interview.

But Trouba also made clear to me at the time -- in very specific detail -- that playing the left side despite having a right handed shot really isn’t that big of a deal for him.

Indeed, according to Trouba, it can even be an advantage at times. Here’s some quotes from our interview -- which I never used in that first column because, man, who cares about this left-side, right-side stuff -- but which now just makes me scratch my head.

"In some cases it’s easier and in some cases it’s harder," Trouba told me. "Pulling pucks off the boards or picking up pucks off the boards in the offensive zone is a little different because you’re on your backhand and have to drag it all the way to your forehand and you don’t have that much time in a lot of situations. So that’s one case.

"Neutral zone regroups -- you’re kind of catching the puck behind you and it’s tough to turn up to go to the strong side wall. And once you do, that’s kind of your only option. But it’s just something you have to figure out.

"(But) wheeling (around) the net, coming out of your own end, you’re wheeling on your forehand which is obviously easier than coming around your backhand. So, it’s just stuff you have to get comfortable with."

And then Trouba added this: "I’ve played the right side my whole life and I’m obviously more comfortable there. But you have to do what’s best for your team. And if that means playing on the left side and that’s what’s best for the team, that’s something you’re going to have to do."

So just to review then -- less than two weeks ago, the amount of time Trouba was playing on the left side of the Jets defence sounded like, in Trouba’s telling, an irritation, sure, but also a relatively minor one which he had resigned himself to as a member of -- wait for it now -- a team.

And now? Armageddon, according to his agent. And, as of the last 24 hours, also according to Trouba, who has been doing new rounds of interviews since Overhardt’s release in which Trouba is now, basically, pointing to Overhardt’s release and saying, ‘What he said.’

I will say this for Overhardt -- the man is bold. Long before he issued a public trade demand for Trouba, the Free Press reported last winter that Overhardt was seeking a delusional $56 million contract from the Jets for Trouba ($7 million a season for the maximum eight-year term.)

Go big or go home with this guy, I guess.

All of which brings us to a final discrepancy -- Overhardt’s contention that Trouba has "...nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership…"

No, actually, he doesn’t. Because a man who actually had respect for any of those people would not be saying one thing one day and then the opposite the next. That is the opposite of respectful.

So what now? Well the irony of all this is that in publicly demanding the Jets trade him, it has become less likely than ever that such a trade will actually occur.

For two reasons. First, by going public with a trade demand, Trouba’s value on the trade market has now plummeted. Not only has the 22-year-old now shown himself to be a malcontent, but the price the Jets can demand for him in a trade has also gone down now that other GM’s perceive they have Winnipeg over a barrel.

And, let’s remember, Trouba’s trade value wasn’t exactly at its apex even before all this happened. Trouba’s offensive production has declined in each of the past two seasons and this month was a healthy scratch for three straight Team North America games -- two at the World Cup pre-tournament and another in the tournament opener -- before an injury to Aaron Ekblad finally made room for him.

Trouba ended up playing two tournament games for North America, registering no goals and no assists, two shots and a minus-one. If the World Cup was supposed to spotlight his talent to a potential NHL trade market, it didn’t happen.

And second, the Jets -- and this is especially true of the Jets -- cannot trade Trouba now, lest they be seen as caving to the demands of impetuous young players.

The Jets are a team that plays in a small market and whose entire future is built on a foundation of exciting young prospects. The last thing the Jets can afford to do right now is send a message to other pending restricted free agents like Trouba -- did I mention Patrik Laine will be one of those in just three seasons? -- that all you have to do is whine loudly enough and the Jets will ship you off on command to a bigger city with brighter lights.

The Jets put out a news release Saturday night following Overhardt’s statement -- that is precisely two news releases too many on a night Canada and Russia were playing -- in which Cheveldayoff said the Jets will do what is in "the best interest of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club."

There will be renewed talk in the days to come, of course, about how the Jets should try to make a trade pitch for New York Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic, who said last season he wanted to move closer to home in St. Malo.

But I’d argue the interests of the Jets right now would be best served by letting Trouba rot. As an RFA, Trouba either signs and plays for the Jets or he doesn’t play. That is known in the poker world as a laughably weak hand and Chevy should call him and push all in.

The Jets are deep in right-handed defencemen anyway, as Overhardt pointed out, and they have a chance here to send a message to the rest of their budding prospects,. And the way to do that is to make an example of Trouba, not unlike Tampa Bay did last season after another precocious youngster, Jonathan Drouin, demanded a trade, only to come slinking back near season’s end after Tampa refused to move him.

As for Trouba, he needs a trade all right -- for a new agent.

The one he's got has hopelessly overplayed a bad hand.

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

   Read full biography

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