After past contract hassles, Jacob Trouba itching for new deal with Jets

Jacob Trouba sounds like he wants to be at the first day of Winnipeg Jets training camp this fall with a new contract in hand.

At home on right side of top pairing, defensive stalwart hopes to sign the 'quicker the better'

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba is set to become a restricted free agent. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Jacob Trouba sounds like he wants to be at the first day of Winnipeg Jets training camp this fall with a new contract in hand.

Prior to the 2016-17 season, the veteran defenceman asked for a trade and sat out training camp and the first 15 games before inking a two-year bridge deal that paid him US$2.5 million that season and $3.5 million in the campaign that just ended.

After players had exit meetings with head coach Paul Maurice and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff on Tuesday, the pending restricted free agent was asked if he'd like a deal done sooner rather than later.

"Been down that road once. Quicker the better," Trouba said.

He also seemed open to signing a long-term deal.

"I'm sure in the next week or two or couple of days I'll meet with my agent and we'll go over stuff," Trouba said. "We'll see where it goes from there. Talk to (Cheveldayoff) and I'm sure something will be worked out."

One of the reasons Trouba sat out was because he wanted to play on his natural right side. He got his wish when Tyler Myers was injured after his return, and has been in that spot since. He clocked an average of just under 22 minutes per game this season on the top pair with Josh Morrissey.

While his holdout raised questions about whether he wanted to play in Winnipeg, the 24-year-old Michigan native was buoyed by the historic run the Jets went on through the playoffs. The team was eliminated last Sunday by the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference final series.

"You get the sense there's a little unfinished business, I guess, here with this team," said Trouba, who had three points in 17 playoff games and 24 points in 55 regular-season outings.

"We all have such good relationships on this team, it's fun to be part of. It's a special team. You want to play for a contender, and that's what we have here."

Trouba is one of nine pending restricted agents who spent the bulk of the season with the Jets, which also includes Morrissey, Vezina Trophy nominee Connor Hellebuyck and forwards Adam Lowry, Joel Armia and Brandon Tanev.

"Nothing could make me more happy than signing long term, but that's the business side of hockey that is so unpredictable," said Hellebuyck, adding he believes there could be a "dynasty" in the making.

Despite the acrimony that surrounded his last contract negotiation, Trouba, right, sounds like he'd consider a long-term deal with the Jets. (John Woods/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

There are also five unrestricted free agents Cheveldayoff will have to deal or not deal with: backup goalie Michael Hutchinson, defenceman Toby Enstrom and forwards Matt Hendricks, Shawn Matthias and Paul Stastny.

"It's amazing how a player like that can come into your lineup and feel like he's been a part of it forever," Cheveldayoff said of Stastny, who was acquired at the trade deadline from St. Louis after he waived his no-movement clause. "That type of chemistry and symmetry is testament to the type of person he is, and how tight our group was."

However, Cheveldayoff noted "the harsh realities of having to sharpen our pencils" when it comes to number crunching for many of the players.

Stastny sounded open to having his 13th season be in Winnipeg.

"Probably the best decision I made, just for experience, for learning, for family," he said. "Obviously (we didn't) win it all, but everything I kind of hoped it would be, it turned out, and even more."

Captain Blake Wheeler had a career-high 91 points in 81 games. He has one year left on his contract and was asked about an extension.

"It's a fair question, but at the same time it's not something I've given a whole lot of thought about," Wheeler said. "You're so invested in the now and like I said, you kind of prepare yourself mentally to still be playing right now.

"So I'd maybe have a better answer for you down the road a little bit, but I don't know today. I'm not there yet."

The long playoff run seemed to rejuvenate veteran centre Bryan Little, who along with Enstrom joined the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007-08. That franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011.

"It was a great experience," Little said. "We all had a lot of fun going through it together, but at the same time it makes you want it a lot more.

"It makes you want to get to that Stanley Cup final and play for the Cup. Once you get a taste for it, you want to be right back there. You want to hit fast forward to next year already."