Maata contract hints at Trouba’s true value
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.
Included in the Jets’ dismal month of Februar y was a 3-1 road loss to Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers.