The Rangers and their connection to Jacob Trouba will not go away. Bob McKenzie, on his most recent podcast, stated that Trouba will be made available and that the Rangers will be heavily involved. Trouba and the Rangers have been linked for quite some time. The Rangers need a top pair defenseman, even if he does have some holes to his game, and the Jets need cap relief and depth. There’s a match to be made here, so it’s only logical that these two teams are linked.
In the linked post above, Pat broke down who/what Trouba is and will bring to the Rangers. The logical thought process is a straight up Chris Kreider for Trouba swap, but I don’t think that makes sense for either team. The Jets need cap space while needing to fill out the roster, and one player with a $4.625 million cap hit isn’t going to cut it. Winnipeg’s best asset to get this cap space — by attaching another contract — is Trouba. A swap like that, in my opinion, is a logical first step but doesn’t necessarily account for other factors.
Looking at what the Jets would want to attach to free up cap space, only Mathieu Perreault (good player) and Dmitry Kulikov (bad player) make sense here. Perreault is a valuable piece, even if overpaid, but Kulikov and his $4.3 million cap hit this season is useless. The thing is, the Rangers are already jammed on the blue line, so adding Kulikov with the intention of him playing doesn’t seem right. However, acquiring Kulikov and then buying him out ($1.4 million this year and next) is a very enticing option for the Rangers. Dead cap space they don’t need in order to acquire Trouba, sign me up. Of course, assuming the price is right.
With the assumption that Kreider is off the table, let’s add a few other assumptions. Winnipeg will be shedding about $11 million in expected salary with Trouba and Kulikov. Add that to Winnipeg’s $25 million in cap space, and they have enough to re-sign Laine and Connor (let’s say $20 million total) while also adding pieces back from the Rangers to fill out the roster. Jimmy Vesey seems like the most valuable piece, at least in perceived value, among the Vesey/Strome/Namestnikov trio. Let’s assume he’s included. You have to give to get here, so let’s throw in Brett Howden and Dallas’ 2nd round pick. That’s about $3 million coming back to Winnipeg. That leaves them with about $13 million in cap space to fill out the roster. At this point I’m at a loss for what else makes sense. I have a difficult time valuing cap space, which is the main driver here for the Jets. It makes you wonder if that is enough. I don’t think it is, but again what do I know?
As for Trouba and his expected $7 million salary, it fits right in if/when the Rangers trade Kevin Shattenkirk. I’m sure that’s a trade-off most will take anyway. Acquiring Trouba accomplishes Jeff Gorton’s goals of keeping the Rangers young, addressing blue line issues, and accelerating the rebuild. That’s the trifecta. You have to give to get here, though, and that’s the wild card.