WINNIPEG -- When the Winnipeg Jets traded defenseman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers on Monday, it was the first of many important decisions they face ahead of the 2019-20 season.
The Jets received defenseman Neal Pionk from the Rangers along with the No. 20 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, which Winnipeg had originally sent New York in a trade for Kevin Hayes on Feb. 25.
Trouba, who was selected by the Jets with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, can become a restricted free agent July 1. With the 25-year-old defenseman unable to come to an agreement with Winnipeg on a long-term contract, the Jets decided to move on rather than wait for any potential return at the draft in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday.
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"This was a necessary first step for us to take and we'll move on to the next," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "With the opportunity not to get a long-term deal (with Trouba) in Winnipeg here, we just felt it was best to open up the door to the possibility of trading him and today's the day we finalized it."
Now, the Jets' focus will shift to the remaining free agents on their roster.
Forwards Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp, and defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Joe Morrow and Pionk could each become a restricted free agent July 1.
Forwards Brandon Tanev, Par Lindholm and Matt Hendricks, and defensemen Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot could each become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"We need to find out what the (NHL) salary cap is and hopefully that will come down in the next few days here," Cheveldayoff said. "We're still got lots of moving parts or balls in the air ... but there's no question we have a challenging summer still ahead of us.
"We'd love to keep everybody, and we'd love to have enough cap space to sign everybody to the extensions that they deserve. We'd love to take another swing with the group we have here, but there's realities in a hard-cap world, and we're fortunate to have some great young players in our organization."
Video: BOS@WPG: Trouba crashes the net for go-ahead goal
Cheveldayoff said that just as Trouba was exercising his rights and looking out for his best interest, the Jets were doing the same with the trade.
"You survey everything, you take stock of what the opportunities are in front of you and you make your decision," he said. "That's something we, over the course of time here, we knew what was out there in the market and this was what we wanted to do."
However, there has been acrimony between Trouba and the Jets in the past. Trouba asked to be traded on Sept. 24, 2016, then rescinded that request one day after signing a two-year, $6 million contract on Nov. 7, 2016. Last offseason, he went to arbitration with Winnipeg and played this season on a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
Despite it all, Cheveldayoff said he's left with a fondness for a player who was an important part of the organization's growth after it relocated from Atlanta in 2011.
"He was our second first-round pick (Mark Scheifele, No. 7 in 2011)," Cheveldayoff said. "He's played hard for our organization for a period of six years, and we wish him all the best. He's someone we saw grow and develop, and obviously he had some personal things he wanted to see come to fruition, and obviously one year from unrestricted free agency, he had that prerogative.
"I think both sides are going to flourish from new opportunities."
One of those new opportunities is for the 23-year-old Pionk. The Jets see him as a player with plenty of upside after he had 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 73 games in his first full NHL season with Rangers, including leading their defensemen in power-play points with 13.
"When you do the research on him, talk to different people about him, he's a competitor," Cheveldayoff said.
Listen: Impact of Trouba trade on NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast