The Flyers took a hit Monday night when the Winnipeg Jets traded talented defenseman Jacob Trouba.
For one, the Flyers didn’t get the righthanded-shooting Trouba, a young veteran who would have fit perfectly alongside Ivan Provorov on their top pairing.
For another, he went to a division rival, the New York Rangers.
The Rangers acquired Trouba, 25, who is a restricted free agent, for defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in Friday’s draft. (The Rangers originally received that pick from Winnipeg in the Kevin Hayes deal.)
Pionk, who turns 24 next month, collected 26 points last season, his first full year in the NHL. He can become a restricted free agent July 1.
From here, Trouba should have been the Flyers’ No. 1 priority. He’s young but a proven veteran. He’s coming off a career-best 50 points and can run a power play. He’s big (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) but mobile.
Oh, and he averaged nearly 23 minutes a game last season.
The only drawback: He’s about to become a restricted free agent, and will probably cost at least $7 to $7.5 million per season on a long-term deal.
The Flyers, however, have the cap space.
The Rangers just sped up their rebuilding process. And they will probably get gifted right winger Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 overall pick in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft. The Blueshirts are also believed to have an outside chance at landing pending unrestricted free agent Artemi Panarin, who could end up in Florida and be reunited with his former Chicago coach, Joel Quenneville.
Even without Panarin, the Rangers made a strong statement by getting Trouba.
Maybe Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher wasn’t as high on Trouba as the Rangers were. Or maybe he felt he would be too expensive or that he couldn’t sign him beyond next season.
That’s a shame because, from here, the Jets would have done much better if they had acquired the Flyers’ first-round pick (No. 11 overall) and, say, defenseman Robert Hagg (20 points) than the package they received from the Rangers. Hagg, 24, was eighth in the NHL with 258 hits last season.
It’ll be interesting to see if Fletcher tries to acquire a defenseman like Nashville’s P.K. Subban or Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon. The latter player, a 29-year-old righthander, was drafted by Fletcher when he was the Wild’s general manager.
The Flyers finished four points ahead of the Rangers last season and both teams missed the playoffs. But the Blueshirts, thus far, have had the better offseason.