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Jacob Trouba situation with Jets diffused for now

RFA defenseman settles on two-year contract but future remains unclear

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- The return of restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba to the Winnipeg Jets dials down what had the potential to be a pressure-cooker in the immediate weeks ahead.

Trouba signed a two-year contract with the Jets on Monday. Considered a bridge contract due to its shorter term, it's for a base salary of $2.5 million this season and $3.5 million in 2017-18. The average annual value is $3 million.

Now, neither Trouba nor the Jets will have to worry about the Dec. 1 deadline by which restricted free agents have to be signed or they become ineligible to play in the NHL for the rest of the season.

Trouba, through agent Kurt Overhardt, issued a statement Sept. 24 saying that he didn't like his fit as a right-shot defenseman in Winnipeg, playing behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the depth chart, and that rather than continue with the Jets lower in the pecking order or playing the left side, his off side, he had requested a trade last May.

In his first three NHL seasons, the 22-year-old from Rochester, Michigan, played 211 games. He missed the first 13 games of the season but decided Monday that playing is better than not playing.

Video: WPG@LAK: Pavelec, Trouba deny Kings early in the 1st

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Monday he would not reveal any conversations he had with Overhardt and Trouba, including whether a long-term contract was discussed, but did confirm he met with them 10 days ago.

That meeting appears to have been the catalyst for what will be, in the present, a win-win situation.

The Jets will get Trouba back into their lineup fairly quickly, maybe Tuesday at home against the Dallas Stars or Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. Battling injuries to Myers and defenseman Mark Stuart, getting Trouba back would be a boost to the roster.

The No. 9 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft will resume his career without a deadline hanging over his head and if a trade request is still on the table - it's unknown if it is - it can be better handled without those extra pressures.

Cheveldayoff didn't address the trade request directly and said the story is water under the bridge.

"In this game… anybody can be traded," he said during a conference call Monday. "But today here, we're very excited about this announcement and moving forward, putting whatever has happened or was said or done behind us and excited about the opportunity to see Jacob in the lineup when he's ready."

Cheveldayoff said that despite the disagreement, matters were always professional with Trouba's camp, including Overhardt.

"It's not the first deal or the last deal that Kurt and I are going to do together moving forward," Cheveldayoff said.

The Jets GM also volunteered a comment on recent reports that Trouba didn't want to play in Winnipeg or in Canada.

"From the very onset, Jacob didn't have a problem playing in Winnipeg and didn't have a problem playing in Canada," Cheveldayoff said. "So again, now that I can comment, I can at least comment on that."

The language was completely conciliatory from Cheveldayoff. And it has been only that from the outset of this drama from Jets coach Paul Maurice.

Maurice has declined every opportunity since Sept. 24 to say how much the Jets were missing Trouba, instead laying groundwork for his return by saying repeatedly how the door was still open and his return would be welcomed inside the locker room.

Video: NSH@WPG: Trouba snaps the puck past Rinne

Having advocated for it, Maurice will now get the chance.

And the microscope will no doubt be focused in his direction starting when Trouba plays his first game of the season.

In the early going, taking Myers' regular spot on the right side as Toby Enstrom's partner seems logical.

When Myers returns to health, then what? Will it be on a third pairing on the right side, with left-handed Ben Chiarot? Or will Trouba move to the left side to skate with Byfuglien on the first pairing, bumping rookie Josh Morrissey - who has had a fine start to the season -- down the depth chart?

Late last season, in order to resolve the difficulty in getting Trouba more minutes, Maurice used Trouba on the left side for a dozen games. Trouba said then he was happy to do it.

Maurice had been touting the continuation of that plan during the offseason, before Trouba's trade request became public.

For the short term, with Trouba back in the fold, the hockey questions supplant the business questions.

None of the answers mean Trouba will or won't be traded. But a dangerous situation for both the Jets and Trouba - Winnipeg without a core player and Trouba possibly missing a year of NHL play -- has been diffused.

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