Maata con­tract hints at Trouba’s true value

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - NHLREPORT -

PITTS­BURGH — There hasn’t been a lot to cel­e­brate for Win­nipeg Jets fans lately.

Cap­tain An­drew Ladd was traded in ex­change for a leap into an un­cer­tain fu­ture. One of the only other re­li­able goal scor­ers on the club this sea­son, Bryan Lit­tle, sus­tained an in­jury that ended his sea­son. And five Jets losses in their last six games has all but ex­tin­guished any play­off hopes.

Amidst all that doom and gloom came one big piece of great news for the Jets over the week­end — and it had noth­ing to do with the Jets.

The Pitts­burgh Pen­guins an­nounced Fri­day they had signed de­fence­man Olli Maatta to a six-year con­tract ex­ten­sion with an av­er­age an­nual value of US$4.08 mil­lion per sea­son.

What’s that got to do with the Jets? Well, Maatta is a close com­pa­ra­ble, sta­tis­ti­cally and oth­er­wise, to Jets de­fence­man Ja­cob Trouba, who is set to be­come a re­stricted free agent at the end of this sea­son and who the Jets would like to sim­i­larly ex­tend.

What makes the Maatta deal such good news for the Jets — and their fans — is Maatta’s con­tract num­bers sug­gest Trouba’s cur­rent mar­ket value is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than what Trouba’s agent has been ask­ing for.

Free Press hockey writer Tim Camp­bell re­ported in De­cem­ber Trouba was seek­ing an eightyear deal worth US$7 mil­lion a sea­son, a mon­strous raise on the US$832,500 Trouba is earn­ing this sea­son in the fi­nal year of a three-year en­trylevel con­tract.

News of Trouba’s con­tract de­mands raised eye­brows at the time of Camp­bell’s re­port be­cause it sug­gested Trouba was valu­ing him­self at the same level as L.A. Kings de­fence­man Drew Doughty, who is widely re­garded as one of the premier de­fence­men in the NHL and has two Stan­ley Cups and two Olympic gold medals on his re­sumé at age of 26.

The Maatta deal would seem to con­firm Trouba’s agent was over-reach­ing. The com­pa­ra­bles be­tween Trouba and Maatta are strik­ing:

Both were first-round draft picks in 2012 — Trouba ninth over­all and Maatta 22nd over­all. Maatta is 21 years old, Trouba turned 22 last week.

The two have very sim­i­lar of­fen­sive num­bers this sea­son — Maatta has six goals and 10 as­sists, while Trouba has five goals and 11 as­sists — with both av­er­ag­ing about 20 min­utes of ice time per game.

Trouba has slightly su­pe­rior ca­reer num­bers — 22 goals, 45 as­sists for Trouba, 16 goals, 38 as­sists for Maatta — but Maatta missed 62 games last sea­son with a can­cer­ous thy­roid tu­mour and shoul­der in­jury.

Any lin­ger­ing con­cerns about Maatta’s health seem to have been an­swered this sea­son — he’s played 54 games and is a plus-19, with most of that play­ing with Kris Le­tang on Pitts­burgh’s top de­fen­sive pair­ing.

It’s worth not­ing Trouba is the more phys­i­cal player.

In ad­di­tion to Trouba, Jets for­wards Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele and goal­tender Michael Hutchin­son are also set to be­come re­stricted free agents at the end of this sea­son.

AL AN DIA Z / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

In­cluded in the Jets’ dis­mal month of Fe­bruar y was a 3-1 road loss to Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Pan­thers.

Olli Maatta

Ja­cob Trouba

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