Submitted by Ryan Rintoul, on twitter at @sharpsk8s
Hockey fans check your calendars, the NHL Trade Deadline and Olympic break are fast-approaching. With the Jets riding a 4-game win streak since the hiring new bench boss Paul Maurice, no better time to look at trade deadline feature, Winnipeg Jets style.
Following a 5-game losing streak, the Jets organization decided a new voice was needed in the room, and relieved Claude Noel and Assistant coach Perry Pearn of their coaching duties. All indications show, most of the players all respected Coach Noel and felt 100% responsible for his dismissal. Nonetheless, a shake-up was needed and it’s much easier to go with option 1, to change the coach. With a “handshake agreement” via phone with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, a new Jets coach was headed to the ‘Peg, NHL veteran Paul Maurice. What has ensued since? As mentioned above, a 4 game win streak, but more importantly, a revitalized, re-energized, re-focused, passionate and defensively responsible Jets club.
But how much would a trade help this team and if so, what will they do?
Numbers–wise, the Jets starting goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, has been just NHL-average. There’s no doubt that he needs to be the backbone for this club to succeed. Don’t get me wrong, Pavelec’s been solid at times, but is heavily relied upon to make that extra save to keep the Jets in games. The defensive corps has left him out-to-dry several nights, so his GAA(2.99) and save %(.901) aren’t entirely reflective of his play. Truth be told, Pavelec needs to steal some games down the stretch and eliminate any weak goals for the Jets to have any distant shot at the playoffs. Should the Jets go out and try to secure “better” goaltending? Like who? Anton Khudobin? Justin Peters? Jonas Hiller? James Reimer? I think they stay the course with Pavelec and focus on other areas that are more concerning.
How about the team defensive play? So far 2.73 goals for per game isn’t too bad, but the 2.90 goals against needs to be lowered. Under coach Paul Maurice this has improved dramatically. Making sure forwards are being responsible, filling lanes on backcheck and communicating with the D to be more difficult to play against. Until recently, the D zone coverage has been sub-par. It was a think-offense first mentality, which landed them in plenty of odd-man rush situations. There was too much freedom and free-wheeling amongst both defense and forwards ie. Wheeler, Bufyglien, Trouba, Kane to name a few.
Jets make a BIG trade … well kinda – a trade in positions. Moving perennial “D/rover” Dustin Byfuglien to forward full-time was just like making a trade. He is a beast all over the ice but was ultimately too much risk-reward back on D. It’s a bit of an experiment, but the Jets immediately added size, skill, toughness with the addition of Buffy to the forward core. This move has allowed young defenseman like budding-Superstar Jacob Trouba and Zach Bogosian to get increased minutes and showcase their talents. So far, so good as they have reeled off 4 straight wins.
Scoring has consistently been the problem for the Winnipeg Jets, ultimately, it will be the key for the last 30+ games. On paper they have a nice core of players up front, with recent line combinations being: Ladd-Little-Frolik, Kane-Scheifle-Wheeler, Setoguchi-Jokinen-Byfuglien. Not bad. Problem has been the consistency in scoring.
Like always, there has been a fair share of rumors surrounding the club; Byfuglien, Kane, Wheeler, Ladd, Setoguchi are names that have been thrown around in the rumor mill. For me, and like many, securing a reliable offensive forward(s) around the deadline would be the logical thing for the Jets to target. I see the underperforming RW/LW Setoguchi and the solid two-way C Jokinen headed to teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Anaheim, Tampa Bay or New Jersey.
Captain Andrew Ladd IS the heart and soul of the club, and to me, he’s almost untouchable. The rumors have been out there but a deal for #16 would have to be so lop-sided that the Jets just could not refuse.
I could see several teams targeting Blake Wheeler, a 6’5 200+ pound winger who plays a high-paced offensive style game. Again, for the Jets to part ways with the recently re-signed Wheeler, another team will have to pay a hefty price, complete with NHL roster players and pick(s). The Wild would love to have the home grown Wheeler but he will come with a high price.
So who would the Jets give up?
I think the Jets have two excellent bargaining chips they could use wisely.
Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane are my 5-star trade chips. Yeah, I said it! But why move one or both of these cornerstone players? Reason? Every team in the league would want them and their value can’t get much higher. There are already plenty of rumors of Byfuglien to the Wild after his deal in Winterpeg is complete. And we know the “bright lights and big City” of Winnipeg isn’t exactly a hot spot for young (and sometimes outrageous) Evander Kane.
But most importantly, what could they get back? I’ll throw a couple scenarios out there that might “make sense” for the Jets:
How about, Dustin Byfuglien to the Flyers for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds? The Flyers fans would love this big, burly force on their blue-line and have the offensive depth to make this deal happen. It lands Buffy in a bigger market and gets him bigger bucks when he does re-sign a new deal a couple years down the road. Brayden Schenn is a “Sasky” (Saskatchewan) boy, with high-end offensive skills, who’d love the chance to play for the Jets and Simmonds is exactly the combo skill/toughness player the Jets need down the stretch.
And what about Evander Kane, this west coast (Vancouver) born and raised player would love to be back in a city with a little more…nightlife! It isn’t long after the Jets season ends you can hear Kane’s black Lamborgini burning rubber out of town. Not to mention, his off-ice antics have been less than Prairie-like. How about this trade: Kane to Colorado for Ryan O’Reilly & maybe throw-in a Jamie McGinn. Helps shore up the Jets down the middle, McGinn compliments their Wing core and Kane brings energy and offense to the Avalanche.
Both of these “fantasy deals” make sense for the Jets. Now, would the other teams go for it? Who knows? But this is the type of move that could put the Jets on an inside track for the playoffs. Let’s face it, the Winnipeg honeymoon is over. The Jets need to make an appearance into the playoffs soon and re-introduce the entire NHL to the original White Out. Remember those days? “Everybody Wear White Tonight” to the tune of hit song “Wang Chung” tonight! It would be pandemonium personified. If you think the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks have home field advantage, just wait until the Jets land in the playoffs. The MTS Center will be deafening!
The Jets PP and PK have been sub-par, probably part of the reason why Associate coach Perry Pearn was also relieved of his duties – he was supposed to be the special teams guru. To date, the PP is 14.5% and the PK is running at 83%. Those numbers aren’t good enough! The power play needs to convert at closer to 20% to fit in the upper echelon of the league. Successful penalty kill around the league runs in the high 80’s. Look no further than the Pens 24.2% PP and 87.9% PK. Those numbers are why Pittsburgh is playoff bound. Yeah, I know most teams don’t have Sid, Gino, Tanger etc. Let’s look at a team with similar depth players to the Jets. Montreal would be a good measuring stick (One could argue that the Jets might have higher end PP/PK talent.) The Canadiens PP runs at 19.6% and their PK is 85.6%. Those numbers may seem “close enough” but they probably add up to 5-7 win differential. Scoring a big PP goal to win a game or preventing one on the PK separate the playoff-bound vs the golf course bound NHL clubs. The Jets need a higher sense of urgency on special teams to make a playoff push this year. Currently, with big Buff playing regular minutes up front, the Jets throw him on the back end for PP. Not a bad idea because he has a bomb of a shot and time and space on PP, allows him to minimize turnovers, his nemesis during 5-5 play. I’d like to see the Stanley Cup Chicago version of Big Buff in front of the net on PP. This leaves the offensive reigns on the backside PP to mobile Jacob Trouba and Zach Bogosian, who has an equally big cannon from the point. Remember the havoc Big Buffy created vs Vancouver, specifically for Luongo in the playoffs? The Jets should re-create that version of Buff for a more dynamic PP.
So where we stand, the Jets have a need for consistent offensive help, the goalies have played just NHL-average, the special teams play needs serious work and looking forward, some youth and energy up front would be a help.
Matt Moulson ($3.13 million) – would be a big help up front and especially on PP but at what cost? If the Jets could send a second or third round pick plus a Devon Setoguchi type player, I would pull the trigger. But it’s the deadline – every team is looking for the same type of forward. It’s likely the Sabres could get a first round pick plus an NHL-ready player for Moulson, something the Jets may be willing to do. This is a risky “rental player play” as Moulson will test the free agent waters and likely land in a bigger market for bigger $$.
Mikhail Grabovski ($3.0 million) – another offensively gifted forward with mobility and would be a solid fit for the Jets. But again, at what price? I can’t justify giving up first round picks for rental players. He could help the PP immensely and has been a proven performer in the past.
Sam Gagner – ($4.8 million) – his name, among many other Oilers, have floated through the rumor mills for weeks now. Question is, what would the Jets give up for a semi-consistent offensive performer? He could bolster their PP but does he make the Jets better and at what price? The Oilers have over-valued many of their roster players and my fear is the asking price will be too high. Bottom line, I’m not 100% convinced a move for Gagner makes the Jets any better, especially with the recent surge of young prospect Mark Scheifle.
Other names floating out there that might be a good fit for the Jets, provided they are making a run into the playoffs: Marian Gaborik, Paul Stastny, Brad Boyes, and Mike Cammelleri.
The Jets organization wants to be a perennial contender for the NHL post-season dance but they want to do it the “right way”. To build the organization from top-down, with great draft choices, strong AHL development and key acquisitions along the way that fit their needs. I like the fact that they “locked up” guys like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, Ondrej Pavelec to long-term deals. These are cornerstone pieces that every team in the league needs to survive and thrive. The Jets have played it pretty conservatively throughout the 1st 3 year years of their re-existence in the National Hockey League. The city was pumped to have a team, “win or lose, who cares, we are in the NHL again” type of attitude. Well that honeymoon is over. The core of the Jets is a solid one, complete with high-compete level players and a new coaching staff now committed to getting the Jets to the “next level”. Now is the perfect time to make a splash. To say to the rest of the league “we are here to make the playoffs, we are here to compete and you better be ready for us.” Moving solid pieces like Evander Kane or Dustin Byfugien would be difficult. They are a huge part of the Winnipeg Jets core and keys to winning right now. However, for the Jets to solidify themselves as future NHL post-season participants, the time to deal is now. Sell while the stocks are high. EVERY team in the NHL would want both of these players, and rightfully so, they are legit superstars. How much would the Rangers give up to get Buffy on Broadway? The same goes for Kane. Can the Jets pull off that monster trade that sets them on the course for an extended playoff run?
The key to Winnipeg’s long-term success is finding those “right” players that fit the mold of playing in a Prairie city like Winnipeg. Humble, hard-working, appreciative family guys who see the value in living in a place where they are God-like in grocery stores and every other place they set foot in. The Jets should target those types of players, like an Andrew Ladd, who play with fire in their belly every night because they know how much it means to the fans, the community, the organization and the Province.
Winnipeg is a great place to play, just ask NHL superstar and current Anaheim Duck, Teemu Selanne. “This place is really, really special,” Selanne said. “Even Saturday night when we got to the hotel, there was a lot of people waiting. That’s unbelievable.”
The city is full of hockey passion, history and knowledge. The fans literally can call an offside before the linesman has a chance to. Every fan glued to their seat in anticipation of the next great jets performance. You’d swear 100,000 Winnipeggers were there when Selanne famously “shot his glove” after his NHL record 54th goal. He went on to snipe 76 that year. Who wouldn’t want to play in a city like that? The key for the Jets and the True North organization is finding that talent mix. Once they do, look for a White Out to hit the streets of Winnipeg in late May and June.