Bruins management has been in a holding pattern waiting for something to “shake free” in the top-four defensemen department and that might have finally happened this weekend.
With the news on Saturday that Jacob Trouba won’t be reporting to training camp with the Winnipeg Jets and has asked for a trade, a player is becoming available that the Black and Gold have had their eyes on for months and months.
CSN was the first to report that the Bruins were putting together a plan for an offer sheet for the 22-year-old American-born defenseman back in June, but that never materialized. GM Don Sweeney eventually backed off that aggressive plan to nab a player they have tapped as a top-four, right-shot defenseman, but clearly there is still interest from a Boston team that literally did nothing to upgrade their back end over the summer.
Cam Neely admitted to CSN a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins were still positioned to make a move for a D-man if something opened up on the market.
“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-four defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know Don [Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” said Neely. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.
“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”
Well, here’s a memo for the B’s brass on Causeway Street: things just opened up as high and wide as a vintage Rich Peverley shot off the high glass. The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft is going to be made available and will undoubtedly be the best defenseman to move in trade between now and the start of the regular season.
He’d also go a long way toward providing the B’s with the kind of bridge D-man that could improve markedly in the present, and allow the back end to be much closer to good until young defenesmen Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are ready for prime time.
This Saturday night statement from agent Kurt Overhardt explains the situation succinctly, but basically Trouba doesn’t want wind his career away stuck behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the right side of Winnipeg’s defense.
“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. Both parties continue to work on this matter,” said Overhardt in the statement. “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. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.
“To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.
Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership - our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”
Clearly, Trouba will draw big interest around the league: he’s a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, right-shot defenseman who posted 10 goals and 29 points in his rookie season as a teenager and has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league.
This is yet another chance for Sweeney and Co. to close a deal on a defenseman and finally start to address some of the damage done while shipping away Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton in successive years. It will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny in terms of assets, but there has to be a reason why Sweeney has been stockpiling centers headed into training camp.
A package of Ryan Spooner, Joe Morrow and a first-round pick would be considerable, but it also might not be enough to get a deal done for a high-demand talent in Trouba. Undoubtedly the Jets would also for a blue chip D-man prospect such as Carlo, or perhaps they’d be more interested in veteran right-shot option Adam McQuaid, who could immediately replace Trouba in the Winnipeg lineup.
The worst-case scenario is Kevin Cheveldayoff taking a page from the Kevin Shattenkirk trade talks, and both starting and ending any conversations with David Pastrnak as the main trade chip. The Bruins have made it clear they’re done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league” as one B’s front office exec made clear to CSN.
The bottom line: it’s not going to be easy, but this is exactly the kind of situation where Sweeney needs to become a closer rather than a lamenter who starts an explanation with “price are high” or “it takes two to tango.”
It takes a good manager to close a deal his team desperately needs. This Trouba situation is shaping up to provide the B’s with that opportunity.