By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Mark Scheifele had a feeling something might be up with teammate Jacob Trouba, but he was surprised to learn the young Winnipeg Jets defenceman has asked to be traded.
“Obviously, talking to him you get a sense, but you definitely didn’t know that was happening. I don’t think any of us did,” Scheifele said Monday after his session at training camp.
“But for the most part, obviously you hope the best for Jacob and you hope the best for the Winnipeg Jets as well.”
Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and rookie forward Patrik Laine were attending their first day of camp after returning from playing in the World Cup of Hockey.
News of Trouba’s trade request came out Saturday night via a press release from his agent, Kurt Overhardt.
Trouba and Scheifele both played for Team North America, which was eliminated Thursday.
“We didn’t really talk about that kind of stuff,” said Scheifele, one of the Jets’ new alternate captains. “It’s just talking about random things instead of talking about the business side of it.
“That’s kind of not really another player’s place to be. You’re definitely there for him as a friend and can lend a helping hand when he needs it, but when it comes to business, that’s his business and the organization’s as well.”
Overhardt’s press release announced Trouba, a 22-year-old restricted free agent whose three-year entry-level NHL contract expired July 1, won’t attend camp and that there had been talks with Jets’ management since May about trading his rights.
“The situation is not about money. It is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right-shot NHL defenceman,” the release stated.
Selected ninth overall in the 2012 NHL draft, the six-foot-three, 202-pound native of Minnesota is behind right-side veteran defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on Winnipeg’s depth chart.
Trouba scored six goals and notched 15 assists last season, averaging 22:03 minutes per game, just behind Byfuglien and Myers. He may have started camp on the left side with Byfuglien, whom he paired up with for a good part of last season.
“I’ve been put all over. It’s not easy,” said Byfuglien, an alternate Jets captain this season who played for the United States at the Cup.
“You’ve got a position, you’ve always played a position. It’s a lot easier just to stay there and play your normal position.”
Byfuglien knows what it’s like to be switched around. He’s played forward and also “here and there” on the left side of defence during his career.
He was asked if he took any issue to a young guy staking his claim or his position like that.
“No, he absolutely should,” Byfuglien replied. “You don’t want to be playing forward, I’ll tell you that.
“If you don’t want to play left side, then you don’t want to. Then you just set your mark right early, I guess.”
New Jets captain Blake Wheeler wants Trouba wearing a Jets jersey.
“We love having Trouby here,” Wheeler said. “I guess for me, you hope to get him back in our room as soon as possible.
“He’s got to ultimately look out for himself, and that’s part of the business side of this thing that can be a little bit ugly sometimes. So as a friend, as a teammate, you wish him all the best in that regard. We miss having him. We want him back.”
On Sunday, Jets forward Mathieu Perreault said he was disappointed to hear about Trouba’s trade request.
“It won’t affect my game or anything, but I just think it’s a little bit selfish of him, I would say,” Perreault told a Global News Winnipeg reporter.
“I don’t want to bash a guy because I like Jacob, but for him being so young and asking for a trade, it’s not something I really appreciate.”
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff responded to Trouba’s press release with a statement of his own Saturday night. Trouba “still represents an important part of the long-term future of the club” and the team will “work diligently to resolve this matter,” he stated.
If a restricted free agent doesn’t sign a contract by Dec. 1, he’s not eligible to play in the NHL for the rest of the season.
The Jets play their first exhibition game Tuesday against the visiting Calgary Flames.