As we idle away waiting for Game 7, and really the offseason when the Hawks will be involved again, it’s probably time to cycle through some possible targets the Hawks could trade for. There will be time to discuss free agents, the draft as well, but we know a lot of deals happen between the end of the Final and draft day, and really right up until July 1st. With the free agent market being pretty damn thin, the Hawks are likely going to have to work out an exchange with someone if they want to upgrade either the defense or top six.
So let’s start with probably the best d-man available via trade, Jacob Trouba (unless Carolina gives up on Dougie, but we don’t know that they will).
Trouba is an RFA this summer, which means you could simply offer sheet him and just give up the draft picks. That runs the risk of the Jets matching, a forfeiture of picks that is a tad heavy, as well as breaking the NHL’s unwritten “no offer sheets” rule. So it’s more likely you’d have to work out a straight trade for his rights.
To some, it may be curious why the Jets would be giving up on their top-pairing d-man, and they certainly don’t have to do anything given his restricted status. But the Jets and Trouba have been at odds for years, and it’s hardly a secret that he wants out and has for some time. And the Jets, after a pretty sad first-round flameout are eager to make some changes, and probably want to keep a large chunk of the $25 mildo in space they have for Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and maybe some new blood. Something is amiss up there (it’s behind the bench but they seem determined to ignore that), and the Jets will try and address it. They very well may start with clearing out a malcontent.
So the next question is what is Jacob Trouba? Well, he’s big at 6-3, but he’s mobile as well. There is a snarl to his game, or there can be. He took the hard shifts, along with Josh Morrissey, for the past few years, freeing up Dustin Byfuglien to do whatever it is he does, when he could be bothered to be healthy and not straining himself at Timbo’s. The last three years, Trouba has started about half of his shifts in the defensive zone
So with the unsheltered zone starts and the toughest competition, it puts something of a thin layer of gloss to his generally team-rate metrics. Trouba has always been just a tick ahead of the team rate when it comes to attempts and expected goals, and is just a year removed from a dominant year in expected goals relative to the rest of the Jets (+5.07).
Trouba is coming off something of an offensive explosion, setting a career-high in points with 50, 17 more than his previous high. Most of that can be attributed to far more power play time thanks to Byfuglien’s needing time with a wash cloth on a stick, and you can bank a lot of points on the man advantage simply being out there with Wheeler, Scheifele, and Laine. Clearly, Trouba wouldn’t get that here but he also wouldn’t be following a bunch of dolts on the power play either. Assuming he could get on it, which seems far fetched thanks to the presence of Messrs. Gustafsson, Keith, and Seabrook.
The other factor is that Trouba is right-handed, and balked in the past when the Jets tried to kick him over to the left side. The Hawks seem to be collecting right-shooting d-men, and just on the team next year you’d have Seabrook, Jokiharju, and Murphy. The latter two have shown they can play the left side if need be, but one wonders how much you want to go to that well.
Still, something seemed off with Trouba during the playoffs and most of the year. Maybe it was just the misery of the Jets, but at times when you’ve wanted him to dominate playoff games, it just hasn’t quite been there. That said, Trouba was excellent in the playoffs just a year ago when the Jets made their only run, so it’s in him, it’s just not always apparent.
Another question about Trouba is what kind of surcharge the Jets would slap on him to trade him within the division, and whether he is worth it. The Jets and Trouba clearly want to be done with each other, but there won’t be a shortage of suitors and the Jets would almost certainly prefer to get him somewhere where they don’t have to deal with him five times a year. It doesn’t always work out that way, but clearly the Hawks offer would have to best the second-best one by a distance.
What the Jets would be looking for is another question. They don’t really need another forward, though it probably can’t hurt. Trouba’s absence would have to be accounted for, especially as Byfuglien is getting fucking old. Selling them on just the Hawks defensive prospects is a stretch to be sure. Perhaps you could sell them on Gustafsson’s ridiculously low contract for a year and insurance that they would have a PP QB whenever Buff pulls another section of fat. But the Hawks seem to treat Gus like he’s found gold or that check that Ricky Henderson framed instead of depositing.
The bottom line is that Trouba is an improvement on what the Hawks have, and by a distance. He’s idealized Murphy, in that he’s not a puck-mover per se but he’s also not simply a road grater. He can get your team up the ice through passing and breaking up plays instead of his feet, but you’d want to pair him with another mobile d-man who can use his feet on the other side. The Hawks don’t have that right now, though they probably think it’s still Keith if just in the right spot.
It’s hard to believe but Trouba is still only 25, so some sort of long-term commitment is unlikely to bite you in the ass until very well down the road. He’s not everything the Hawks need, but he’s a lot of it. The problem is the Jets are going to be asking for the moon and they just might get it. Saad and a prospect and a second-round pick might not even be enough, and I can’t see the Hawks wanting to go much further than that. Especially as the Jets don’t really need Saad and the prospect almost certainly wouldn’t help them this year and the Jets are very much in their window.
It’s a long-shot, but one worth considering.