Essentially any time a player is publicly put on the trade block, either by management shopping them around or by their own doing, we get to weigh in on whether Toronto makes sense as a destination. It’s always a fun exercise, but plenty of times if there’s a great player out there, the fit isn’t, and we have to jump through a few hoops to convince ourselves it could work. That isn’t really the case with recent trade-requester Jacob Trouba, as he represents a clear target for the Leafs to address their biggest weakness: a top pairing right-shot defenceman.
But something I’ve noticed in reading up on this Trouba news since it broke yesterday is that he’s being unsurprisingly undersold by opposing fans envisioning a trade. If Lamoriello could pull this off, it’s going to cost the Leafs a ton. It will for any team.
Jeff has already taken a look at how Trouba would fit seamlessly with this roster, and talked some about the contract extension he’ll get, so right here we’re just spitball about what Toronto could offer up to Cheveldayoff in exchange for the 22-year-old blueliner. He didn’t want to go all HFBoards-ish, but I gladly will.
Now, the usual suspects obviously have to be mentioned here in terms of Leafs trade chips. Back at the deadline I wasn’t the first to mention that van Riemsdyk would make a lot of sense as part of a swap for a solid young defender like Trouba. He obviously does have plenty of value with such a cap-friendly contract and the ability to pour in 30-30 yearly, but now I don’t see him as someone the Jets would covet given they’re about to unload so much of their future.
Jake Gardiner is another guy who, as a productive, albeit somewhat polarizing player on a reasonable contract, gets plenty of the trade talk treatment. Admittedly, here he would make more sense as an option than van Riemsdyk, with the Jets’ blueline being a sore spot with Trouba leaving, and their winger situation already landing a major boost this summer with Laine.
lots of teams have spoken with #nhljets about a trade for Jacob Trouba. Ask is very clear – left hand D of same calibre and age
— gary lawless (@garylawless) September 25, 2016
If you take the above at face value, Toronto can’t make a deal here. The closest they could get is with Gardiner, but given he has four years on Trouba, they would likely have to add on a fair bit to move the needle for Winnipeg. Not to mention that given where the Leafs are with such a weak blueline, this would be somewhat of a wash in the short-term, and they’d still have to keep looking to add in that area.
What the Leafs might have to do – again, hypothetically – is deal from a position of strength to a Jets position of strength, but really make it worth it. And that could mean parting with a premier prospect like Marner or Nylander.
I can feel your rage building, but hear me out. For one thing, I’m not saying the Leafs should definitely do this (though I probably would). I just want to point out that if Toronto truly wants to upgrade their defence in a big way without taking steps back, this would likely be the price. Secondly, let’s remind ourselves that Trouba is really good at hockey. He’s only 22-years-old, but in each of his three NHL seasons to date he’s played a substantial role for the Jets at more than 22-minutes a game the whole way, and been a horse over the last two from a possession standpoint, which is particularly impressive considering how young he is. He’s been a 52% Corsi For player at evens (score-adjusted) since he’s entered the league.
The main hangup with Trouba seems to be that folks are put off by his modest level of production the past two years, especially considering he poured in 29 points as a 19-year-old rookie in only 65 games (he only put up 21 this past season). His boxcar stats haven’t been flashy since, but keep in mind Winnipeg as a team was a bottom-ten team in goals scored this past year. I think there’s room to grow there with an improving club.
It might surprise you a little to know that over his entire career Trouba’s numbers line up fairly closely with Morgan Rielly’s (0.32 points-per-game to Rielly’s 0.39), and I doubt I’d find many Leafs fans who think Rielly doesn’t have a ways to go to hit his offensive ceiling. So that poses an interesting question: What would you expect the Leafs to ask for if teams came knocking about Rielly?
They both entered the league at the same time, and up to this point Trouba has played bigger minutes, and moved the dial more possession-wise, but hasn’t been quite up to par in raw production. They’re quite clearly comparable trade-wise, so if Rielly was in a similar situation, what would you expect from other teams kicking tires? I’m guessing you’d start looking at their top prospects from the past couple drafts. While it’s nice to have an easy answer like JVR or Gardiner for something like this, it’s probably not realistic, and I would think the Jets would need any trading partner to cut into their future a lot more than that if they’re gonna part with so much of theirs.