Winnipeg Jets: Trade Deadline Preview

Winnipeg Jets

The narrative around the team that wins the Stanley Cup seems to change every year.

The belief used to be that defence is essential to winning championships, or that you needed an elite goaltender. This quickly turned to a focus on the centre-ice position, and then just a team with elite skaters, with many variations along the way. While the type of champion seems to change and no two teams are the same, there are two traits that every Stanley Cup winning team seems to have: an elite core, and strong depth options. You don’t need to be an NHL general manager to know you can never have enough of either.

Last season, the Winnipeg Jets made a huge play at the NHL trade deadline by acquiring Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues. Stastny immediately became welcomed and revered by Winnipeg Jets fans as he made an impact en route to the Jets’ Western Conference Final appearance. It is no secret to anybody close to the Jets this season that the team could use a similar insurance move for their depth. Head coach Paul Maurice was confident at the NHL all-star game last weekend when referring to the team as a “well-oiled machine.” Having said that, elite teams can never have enough depth.

Well-Oiled Machine

There is no telling when a crucial injury will strike, and how many are to come with it. It is imperative that playoff teams be prepared for any situation rather than being caught off guard. With the trade deadline approaching, it signals work ahead for Jets’ Kevin Cheveldayoff and his management team.

The Winnipeg Jets are playing great hockey with the roster they have. However, Kevin Cheveldayoff would be wise to explore the trade market in a season before major contract negotiations will begin. Let’s explore the available options for the Winnipeg Jets, and the likelihood the Jets could swing a deal for them.

Now would also be a good time to remind you that I obviously have a crystal ball; if they’re on this list then the Jets are looking at them, and if they aren’t on this list then the Jets DEFINITELY aren’t considering them for trade.

Kevin Hayes, Centre, New York Rangers

Age: 26 / Contract: $5.18M AAV, final year

18-19: 41GP, 10G, 35PTS, 19:31 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

Kevin Hayes brings the ability to centre and wing despite having been converted strictly to centre over the past few seasons. Hayes is a big body that can also play with faster players, and brings a lot of different things to his game. Perhaps one of the most notable qualities in Hayes’ game is that he is considered an elite penalty killer, and while the Jets do have a strong PK right now, that is an area of the game where your team truly cannot have too much depth. On pace for his best offensive season ever, Hayes is probably one of the best two-way options available this season.

How likely is this:

Not overly. The reason is that Kevin Hayes would very likely take a dip in production as a Jet because his minutes will decrease. Right now, Kevin Hayes is playing first line-type minutes for the Rangers, but he would have trouble cracking the Jets top-six.

Although Hayes can play with elite talent, his speed and skill are less than a Derick Brassard type (just to pick a player at random), and his possession numbers are weaker than Bryan Little on average. In addition, he would come at a much more expensive trade price than our next option. Ultimately, the Jets would likely need to pay a price greater than their return would yield. To me, Kevin Hayes to the Jets only happens if the Jets get backed into a corner by being outbid by divisional and conference rivals prior to the trade deadline.

Derick Brassard, Centre, Florida Panthers

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Age: 28 / Contract: $5M AAV, final year

18-19: 40GP, 9G, 15PTS, 14:56 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

Okay, maybe I didn’t randomly bring up Derick Brassard earlier. Brassard is an intriguing option for the Winnipeg Jets. Brassard offers a steady two-way game with a decent offensive ceiling of a 55-60 point pace. It is worth noting that Brassard struggled to find his stride in Pittsburgh and looked like a shell of his former self before being traded to Florida on Friday. Brassard played against tougher matchups and was a third-line centre option for almost every game with the Penguins. His average time-on-ice in 54 regular season games with the Penguins was exactly 15:00, while his career average is well over a minute more. In fact, Brassard averaged 17:00 per night in 254 games with the New York Rangers while playing as a second-line centre for most of the time.

In addition to his ability to play up in the lineup, Brassard is also an experienced playoff option. Brassard has appeared in 90 NHL playoff games, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 with the Rangers, and two other trips to the Eastern Conference Final in 2015 with the Rangers and 2017 with the Ottawa Senators. Ultimately, he is a player that could thrive if given more opportunity, and because he has many similarities to Bryan Little, he would give Jets coach Paul Maurice a lot more flexibility to move his lineup around when necessary.

How likely is this:

Fairly strong likelihood. I don’t see what the Panthers stand to gain from keeping Brassard longer than a week or so. The Jets were reportedly pursuing Derick Brassard last year, but the deal fell through. In fact, there was strong belief that the Vegas Golden Knights were willing to retain part of Brassard’s salary as part of a three-way trade just to keep Brassard away from the Winnipeg Jets, and keep him out of the conference.

Cheveldayoff does have interest in Brassard, and I would make the argument that he is one of the best options on the trade market because of his ‘buy-low’ situation. The Penguins were not making much use of Brassard, and the Panthers likely won’t either. Panthers general manager Dale Tallon likely could get a decent return of useful futures for him. Ultimately, Brassard would be a fantastic fit for the Jets’ top-six, and I’d be surprised if they weren’t working on a deal for him as we speak (or read or type or, whatever).

Matt Duchene, Centre/Right Wing, Ottawa Senators

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Age: 28 / Contract: $6M AAV, final year

18-19: 42GP, 21G, 48PTS, 55 FO%, 19:19 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

I’m sure you’re familiar with Matt Duchene. There are pros and cons to his game. On the positive side, Duchene is above average in the face-off dot, a very strong skater with above average hand-eye and play-making ability. He has the skill set to be a threat to score on a nightly basis, and has scored at least 40 points in every full season in the league.

On the down side, many of his advanced statistics are average or below average, possibly because he does have the tendency to fluctuate in terms of compete level. Trying to dissect exactly why he has issues with his compete level is a matter for a complete different article.

All in all, Matt Duchene is an elite talent that likely could thrive in a situation where he is the complimentary piece. Anytime that Matt Duchene has been the go-to guy, there have been varying levels of success. However, I have a theory that Matt Duchene would be a much better player if on the ice for 17:00-18:30 against slightly weaker matchups than a first line centre ordinarily would be. Playing behind Mark Scheifele might just be what Duchene needs, and that version of Duchene might be just what the Jets need.

How likely is this:

Medium likelihood. This theory does hinge on the Winnipeg Jets having additional information that I am not privy to, and that information pointing to Matt Duchene being a great fit for them. The reality is that Matt Duchene will not come cheap because the Ottawa Senators essentially mortgaged their future to get him, and it is a future that now looks really bleak. Duchene is a pretty good player, and the Senators will make a good team pay a heavy price to land him. Whether or not Duchene is worth it, that is entirely up to Kevin Cheveldayoff; based off his track record, he’ll probably make the right decision.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Centre, Ottawa Senators

Age: 26 / Contract: $3.1M AAV, signed through 2019-20

18-19: 9GP, 1G, 1PTS, 60 FO%, 17:00 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

Pageau will come at a much cheaper price than Duchene, and arguably cheaper than many of the names on this list. The reason being that Pageau is one of those players where the jury is still out exactly where in the lineup he should fit. Pageau is a player that just seems to bring it in the playoffs. He famously scored four goals in game two of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the New York Rangers, including the winning goal in double overtime. Ultimately, Pageau would be a great fit this year and next if the Senators were to retain some salary, and is able to fit just about anywhere in the lineup. Although his possession numbers are taking a hit so far this year, he is coming off of a serious injury, and likely will rebound as he plays more.

How likely is this:

Unlikely but not impossible. The fit is there. The price is right. This scenario mostly hinges on how much the Senators want to move Pageau. He is a fan favourite player, but it is unlikely that he is the building block in the rebuild, and with an increasing risk that he will leave as a UFA in 2020, the time could be now to move him out for something valuable.

Micheal Ferland, Winger, Carolina Hurricanes

Age: 26 / Contract: $1.75M AAV, final year

18-19: 42GP, 13G, 25PTS, 14:54 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

This could be a huge opportunity for the Jets. Ferland has become an analytics darling, and has established himself as one of the more complete top-nine wingers in the NHL. Ferland is known to be extremely physical, but his speed and offensive ability is not lost in that. It is because of his playing style that he should be considered one of the most impactful forwards on the market at this years trade deadline. He would be a great addition for any playoff team, especially the Jets, who could use some depth scoring and physical play in the wake of Patrik Laine’s struggles and an injury to Nikolaj Ehlers. Most notably, Ferland is able to play with a level of skill and grit that most players do not possess. It is the same level of skill and grit that the Jets pride themselves on possessing.

How likely is this:

If the Jets land a centre, then this is unlikely. If, however, the Jets are content with Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, and Andrew Copp at centre ice with Jack Roslovic for insurance, then I’d be willing to bet that Micheal Ferland will be among their top priorities at the deadline. There is a very good chance that the Jets could move Perreault and resign Ferland in the offseason, thus upgrading themselves at the left-wing position while providing healthy competition for the ice-time on the team. Right now, Paul Maurice has done a great job at limiting his star players ice-time on nights where they are a non-factor. That being said, the Jets will be much better off if Micheal Ferland is the beneficiary of extra minutes in the playoffs than if those minutes are going to Brendan Lemieux, or Mason Appleton. I would think that if the Jets don’t add a centre, then Micheal Ferland is very likely.

Wayne Simmonds, Right Wing, Philadelphia Flyers

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Age: 30 / Contract: $3.98M AAV, final year

18-19: 51GP, 15G, 23PTS, 92 hits, 16:23 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

This is a bit of a complicated matter, but it pretty much comes down to this: whether or not Wayne Simmonds can still ‘bring it.’ If Wayne Simmonds still has gas in the tank, there is potential for him to be the type of player that can win you a playoff series. There is a large debate in the hockey community this season as to whether or not Wayne Simmonds is still actually the same player he used to be. It is difficult to evaluate him at this point, considering he played through a major injury last season, and this season has been playing a couple of minutes less than he did in his prime while playing on one of the league’s worst teams through the first half. However, Wayne Simmonds can still contribute in a bottom-six capacity at his worst, and is still worth considering on the basis of his grit alone.

How likely is this:

He is likely the backup plan to Micheal Ferland.

Mark Stone, Right Wing, Ottawa Senators

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Age: 26 / Contract: $7.35M AAV, final year

18-19: 51GP, 22G, 51PTS, 77 takeaways, 20:27 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

Mark Stone is incredibly good at hockey. I feel like everybody knows he is good, but there are still hockey fans don’t understand just how good Mark Stone is. Grazing the surface, Mark Stone leads the NHL by a landslide in takeaways this season. His possession statistics are strong, and there are many encouraging factors considering how strong he has been on a particularly weak team. Simply put, Mark Stone is a star player that would fit into the Jets system incredibly well. He would likely be the piece that puts them over the top.

How likely is this:

Medium likelihood. Like Duchene, the price will be high. I can guarantee that Kevin Cheveldayoff has checked in with the Senators on the price for Mark Stone. While he would require a hefty return, there is an encouraging note in the fact that Mark Stone is from Winnipeg. Although the Jets are likely up against the wall of the salary cap this summer, it is likely they could convince Mark Stone to stick around if they could make the money work. Regardless, Mark Stone can flat-out bring it when the games matter. He is a heart and soul piece. I would imagine all of this information is not lost on the Jets management and ownership.

Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings

Age: 29 / Contract: $4.75M AAV, final year

18-19: 52GP, 12G, 45PTS, 18:00 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

Gustav Nyquist is on pace for the best season of his career, and I believe that trend is going to continue regardless of the team he’s on. He’s capable of playing either wing which gives Paul Maurice flexibility in his lineup. Although Nyquist has struggled during his trips to the playoffs (just eight points in thirty-five games), there is something about him that looks like a new player this season. In a purely rental situation, Nyquist has the speed and skill to help put the Jets over the edge. His possession numbers are very strong on a weak team, and everything points to him being a force moving forward this year.

How likely is this:

I’ll say pretty unlikely, but with a condition: if they miss out on the names above, or deem the price too high, the Jets will make a run at Nyquist. All of the players above could be a better fit in the Jets lineup on paper. However, Nyquist is an above average playmaker with blistering speed that, as I mentioned, would be helpful just about anywhere. The Jets know that, so you would have to believe he is at least on their radar.

Nathan Beaulieu, Defence, Buffalo Sabres

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Age: 26 / Contract: $2.4M AAV, final year (RFA)

18-19: 26GP, 3G, 7PTS, 14:46 TOI

Why the Jets should consider this:

There’s quite a bit to unpack on the Jets blue line that this article has yet to address. Ultimately, there are quite a bit of question marks going into next year. Josh Morrissey, Dustin Byfuglien, Sami Niku, and Dmitry Kulikov are the only four defencemen signed beyond this season (although I would speculate Kulikov is going to be bought out this summer). I would also imagine the Jets blue-line does not change much next year. That said, they do have to find a way to resign Tyler Myers/Jacob Trouba on the right side, and Ben Chiarot/Joe Morrow on the left side. It appears that they are onto something with Joe Morrow, who has been a relatively solid bottom pair option for them.

However, I think it’s very possible that they enter next year with some questions on the left side. Nathan Beaulieu would be an interesting experiment for them. Beaulieu is just four days older than Morrow, but it seems like Morrow has certainly been around the block already. Ultimately, Morrow has been a strong addition for the Jets, and with Beaulieu, there is the possibility of plenty of potential untapped there. Beaulieu is looking for a change of scenery, and the Jets might be able to offer that competitiveness and structure that he’s been missing in Montreal and Buffalo so far.

How likely is this:

Depending on the price, I’d say fairly likely. The Sabres would be best served to find Beaulieu a new home. He has requested a change, and it would be a sign of good business etiquette for them to grant his request. At its worst, it’s a barely consequential depth move for the Jets. At its best, the former first round pick of the Canadiens could be a good bit of flexibility in the Jets lineup. Right now, Winnipeg does not desperately need the help on the blue-line, but you’re never desperate until you are.

My Deadline Predictions

I would be very surprised if the Winnipeg Jets did not add a forward and a defencemen. I believe Kevin Cheveldayoff sees the strength of his defence. The deadline will involve the acquisition of a semi-big or big fish up front and some depth on the backend. If I had to pick two names, I’m going to say Brassard and Beaulieu. That being said, Cheveldayoff and the Jets brass know that guys like Stone and Duchene are impact players and could be a major difference maker for them. The one thing that is for certain is that Kevin Cheveldayoff will not make a reaction move. He is careful and methodical, and any move made will be in the best interest of the Winnipeg Jets coaches, players, and fans.

statistics from hockeyreference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

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Author: Brutes Battaglia