The race is on for the Jets: Will Trouba be part of it?

- March 25th, 2013

There was no access to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday as they hit the road for North Carolina to prepare for Tuesday’s tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes.

But that didn’t mean the news cycle stopped.

Bob McKenzie of TSN sent out a tweet Monday suggesting Jets 2012 first rounder Jacob Trouba was taking the next few days to decide whether he was going to stay in school or sign a contract and turn pro. I was able to confirm the report with a couple sources and it will be interesting to see what Trouba decides over the next few days.

Naturally, the Jets declined comment on the report. What would they have to say, anyway?

Ultimately, the decision is up to the player and while Trouba told reporters at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh that education was important to him, there’s a strong buzz about Trouba’s development as a player, so the options are certainly worth mulling over.

Trouba’s had an excellent freshman season with the Michigan Wolverines. That much is clear.

The skilled, yet physical blue-liner had 12 goals and 29 points in 37 games to finish third in team scoring, while racking up 88 penalty minutes.

Should Trouba choose to sign with the Jets later this week, it will be interesting to see what direction the Jets take with him.

Given their philosophy on not wanting to rush prospects before they are ready, it probably would make the most sense to send Trouba to the St. John’s IceCaps to get him a taste of the pro game.

But would Trouba be open to that? That’s part of the consideration.

Although Trouba is definitely a top-notch prospect with a bright future, you’re asking a lot of any player to think he could step right into the heat of a playoff race, without the benefit of training camp and jump right into the lineup and contribute immediately.

We’re not saying it would be impossible for Trouba to do so, but the challenge needs to be acknowledged nonetheless.

I’ve been saying for some time now that I expect Trouba to be ready to play for the Jets next season, should he choose to come out of college, but we should know in the near future what his decision is going to be and where he starts his pro career, whenever that time comes.

Since there was no media access to the Jets today, it’s impossible to say with any certainty if Mark Stuart (upper-body) or Ron Hainsey (hand) will be available for Tuesday’s game with the Hurricanes.

Given the importance of the game against a team chasing the Jets in the standings, you can be sure both would love to play if they can, but judging by the bruise on Hainsey’s hand, it’s not impossible he’ll need another few days for it to get fully healed.

Colleague Kirk Penton is on this road trip and will be providing updates from Raleigh, N.C.

What we do know, thanks to ‘Canes beat writer Chip Alexander of The News and Observer in Raleigh, that the Hurricanes will start third-stringer Justin Peters in goal, since Cam Ward is on the IR with a knee injury and Dan Ellis is on the shelf with a hand injury.

The Hurricanes also made some big news on Monday afternoon, inking winger Alexander Semin to a five-year extension worth $35 million.

Semin gambled on himself, signing a one-year deal with the Hurricanes after spending his entire career with the Washington Capitals and it’s paid off in the form of a lucrative new deal.

In other NHL news, Ray Shero of the Pittsburgh Penguins made another preemptive strike leading into the NHL trade deadline, picking up mammoth D Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks for a 2nd round pick in 2013 and a conditional 2nd rounder in 2014.

The Pens bolstered their blue-line in addition to adding former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow on Sunday to give their forward group some additional grit, scoring.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how teams around the NHL (including the Jets) respond leading up to Apr. 3.

Also, sounds like it will be Jon Cooper and not Lindy Ruff who  will be named the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Cooper actually ran practice for the Syracuse Crunch on Monday morning and his promotion is not a huge surprise.

Although my gut feeling was that Steve Yzerman might go with a more experienced voice, that would have run the risk of losing Cooper to another organization at season’s end.

Cooper built a winning culture with the Norfolk Admirals and the Crunch and I’ve heard great things about him, with regards to how he handles his teams.

Back to our original plan from yesterday, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Jets final 15 games will look like:

* Six vs Southeast Division opponents (three vs Hurricanes, one vs Panthers, one vs Capitals, one vs Lightning)

* Nine vs rest of Eastern Conference (2 vs Islanders, 2 vs Canadiens, 2 vs Sabres, Penguins, Rangers, Flyers)

* Seven road games (one each vs Hurricanes, Penguins, Rangers, Islanders, Canadiens, Sabres, Capitals)

* Eight home games (2 vs Hurricanes, Flyers, Sabres, Panthers, Lightning, Islanders and Canadiens)

Clearly, the race to the finish is on.

“Carolina is a huge game and a huge test for us. It’s going to be kind of a playoff game, because it’s big for them too. We know how important those two points are,” said Jets centre Bryan Little. “Because the standings are so tight, every team believes they have a chance at making it. Every game is tough right now.”

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