The Winnipeg Jets enter the off-season in an interesting place.
After a post-season appearance in 2014-15, the Jets struggled in the tough Central Division in 2015-16 and wound up with the second-overall pick in the upcoming draft. But sometimes lost in the excitement surrounding the possibility of landing fantastic Finn Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi — or maybe even Auston Matthews if the Toronto Maple Leafs take a gamble with the first-overall pick — is that Winnipeg still has some housekeeping to take care of.
The Jets have a number of interesting restricted free agents to take care of this off-season, chief among which are center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba. It seems certain that Scheifele will end up landing a significant raise on a longer-term deal, but the same can’t be said for Trouba, which has led to rumors surrounding the 22-year-old blueliner. Trouba is seen as a rearguard who has huge potential that he’s yet to reach, and there has been rumors in the past that he could be looking for a contract that reflects his ceiling.
However, amidst the rumors, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wants to make one thing clear: he’s not looking to move Trouba out of Winnipeg.
"I'm not trying to trade anybody,” Cheveldayoff said, via the Winnipeg Free Press’ Tim Campbell. “I think in this game there's a distinct possibility that anybody can get traded…And again we've got some good young players here. We've got two of them that are up for contracts in Trouba and Scheifele and we're going to do our best to get those contracts done and in the books. So trying to trade him? No.”
Cheveldayoff’s comments won’t exactly squash the rumors, though. There’s still the matter of locking Trouba up to a deal — either short- or long-term — that sees him suit up in a Jets uniform next season. Winnipeg has had months to take care of that and haven’t yet been able to. One of the biggest concerns is how much Trouba is after, especially on a Jets’ blueline that is getting pricier by the season.
This coming season, Dustin Byfuglien’s five-year, $38-million deal kicks in, the Jets have to deal with two more seasons of Toby Enstrom at $5.75 million per season and Tyler Myers has a cap hit of $5.5 million in each of the next three campaigns. All told, the Jets already have $23.2 million wrapped up in their six defensemen, which is nearly on par with the $24.5 million they have invested in 11 forwards.
The Jets haven’t been a team that has floated around the cap’s upper limit, either, so if they’re still working within a set budget, it could get tricky to lock up Scheifele and Trouba. But Winnipeg has the cap room — more than $19.5 million, per CapFriendly — to make both signings work and maybe even add a piece through free agency.
What’s the magic number for Trouba? No one quite knows. Cheveldayoff sounds like he wants to get the deal done, though, and trading Trouba seems like the absolute last option for Winnipeg.