Jets trade Jacob Trouba to Rangers

The Winnipeg Jets have traded defenceman Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers for defenceman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick at the upcoming NHL draft.

25-year-old defenceman is a pending restricted free agent

Jacob Trouba, seen above speaking to the media after the Winnipeg Jets lost in the first round of the playoffs in April, has amassed 179 points in 408 career games. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The Winnipeg Jets have unloaded their top-scoring defenceman, Jacob Trouba, after brass couldn't reach a long-term pact with the blue-liner.

Trouba was sent to the New York Rangers for defenceman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick at the upcoming NHL draft, the teams announced on Monday night.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he's grateful for Trouba's contributions over the past six years, but they had to part ways.

"He had some some personal things that he wanted to see come to fruition and obviously, with one year from unrestricted free agency, he had that prerogative moving forward," Cheveldayoff said in a conference call with reporters.

Draft pick returns

He said it became apparent that a "long-term [deal] wasn't going to be in the making."

In return, the Jets pick up Pionk, who went undrafted and was signed as a free agent by the Rangers in May 2017 after two seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The 23-year-old from Omaha, Neb., split the 2017-18 season between the Rangers and the American Hockey League before joining New York full time last season.

He produced six goals and 26 points in 73 games in 2018-19.

Monday's transaction also gives the Jets the first round draft pick they dealt to the Rangers along with left-winger Brendan Lemieux for centre Kevin Hayes.

Trouba is coming off a career-best 50 points, including 18 points on the power play. He was drafted ninth overall by Winnipeg in 2012 and has played 408 career games, with 42 goals and 179 points.

It's been rumoured the departure of the 25-year-old defenceman was inevitable this off-season, as Winnipeg faced a salary-cap crunch and would have had trouble fitting Trouba into its lineup.

Trouba is also a restricted free agent in need of a new contract.

Defenceman Jacob Trouba is coming off a career-high season with eight goals and 42 assists. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jets blogger Trevor Alexander says the trade frees up millions in salary cap space.

"As much as it hurts to deal away a guy as young as Jacob Trouba and certainly has enough potential to make an impact on his career … at some point you gotta start dealing away the young guys because you can't afford to keep them all."

Trouba was dealt just days before NHL general managers gather for the draft this weekend in Vancouver. The free agency period starts July 1. 

'Unprecedented' chats with GMs

Cheveldayoff expects a challenging summer.

"There's lots of things on the go. It's probably an unprecedented time of conversation between all the general managers. We'll see if there's some other things that make some sense for us moving forward."

Trouba gives the rebuilding Rangers a legitimate top-pairing defenceman to speed their move toward being playoff contenders again. He had eight goals and 42 assists for 50 points last season.

Pionk is also a restricted free agent but will cost less than the more-established Trouba.

With files from The Canadian Press, Erin Brohman and CBC Sports