Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
The pending UFA blue-liners have increased their value of late by playing big minutes on a team that's vaulted up the standings. And with the trade deadline just over two weeks away, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have some decisions to make.
The life of an NHL GM cannot be easy.
I have a hard enough time making trades in my fantasy hockey keeper leagues, as the fear of overpaying for a bust or trading away a potential star is stressful even when it doesn't really matter. And figuring out what to do with pending UFA's as we approach the trade deadline is always a huge decision. Multiply that by a million and I think that's where the real GM's exist.
So I begin this post by acknowledging that Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has it tough right now, as some of the contracts he inherited from the Atlanta Thrashers are coming due this summer. Some tough choices need to be made, and one of the biggest ones is on the blue-line. And it comes down to this question:
What do you with Ron Hainsey and Grant Clitsome?
Mr. Hainsey, or HRR (Hockey-Related Ron) as he's cleverly referred to by Rick Ralph on TSN 1290 radio, is an unrestricted free-agent this summer when his five-year $22.5 million contract expires. There is no question that his $4.5m cap-hit is a vast overpayment for his services at this time, but when the Atlanta Thrashers signed him to that deal all those years ago it wasn't viewed as a bad signing. He has been thrust into a position above where he should be, but has done a decent job all things considered.
As for Mr. Clitsome, or New-Guy as Rick Ralph calls him, the waiver-wire pickup has performed admirably on the top-pairing with Dustin Byfuglien and has had his stock rise dramatically. He is coming off of a two-year deal that paid him $1.25m per season, and unlike Hainsey was an acquisition that Chevy made himself. While he is obviously miscast as a top-pairing d-man, he's been very serviceable as a replacement for the injured Enstrom.
Both guys have played major minutes in recent weeks, and the Jets have vaulted up the standings. Their stocks may never be higher, but both could also walk away in July. And with Enstrom close to returning, one of these guys will likely lose some playing time. When you combine that with the rumours out there that teams like the St. Louis Blues are looking for a left-handed d-man who can play top-4 minutes, it's possible that these two guys could have value at the deadline..
So Jets fans, what should Chevy do?
|Zach Redmond (IR)||8||1||3||4||0||19:34||-1.844||19.54||RFA|
As you can see by the charts above, the right-handed shots have the better possession numbers. Clitsome is the only left-hand shot to play on the blue-line this season that has a positive CorsiOn, but Buff and Bogo are almost breaking even while going up against the toughest CorsiQoC. Hainsey is going up against the 3rd-hardest competition, but his CorsiOn is the lowest on the team, though it has been improving over the last few weeks. Postma and Redmond, in sheltered minutes, were producing exceptional numbers, while Meech is struggling playing on the right-hand side since taking over for Postma.
Another thing to notice is that the Jets only have Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Mark Stuart under contract for next season at this time. It's also interesting that the unsigned guys on right-hand side of the ice are all RFA's while the lefties are all UFA's (other than Arturs Kulda, but who knows what's happening on that front.
One would assume that Toby and Buff are the top-pairing when healthy, and that Mark Stuart would be on the left-side of the third pairing. And I'm pretty sure we can pencil in Zach Bogosian on the right-side of the second pairing, so with those four added here is where we are at:
Tobias Enstrom ($5.75m) - Dustin Byfuglien ($5.2m)
????????????? - Zach Bogosian (RFA)
Mark Stuart ($1.7m) - ????????????????
????????? - ???????????????
So what do we do about all those question marks? With youngsters like Kulda, Redmond and Postma as well as a veteran like Meech hanging around, assuming that Redmond is able to recover from that awful injury of his, than I think the bottom question marks are easily filled. But the big question mark is what do the Jets do about that glaring hole on the left-side of the second pairing.
Are either Hainsey or Clitsome the answer for that spot going forward? Hainsey turns 32 next week and Clitsome turns 28 next month, so they are hardly past their prime, but are they worth re-upping with? They are both left-hand shots, and with Enstrom signed long-term and Stuart under contract through this season and next, they either play on the 2nd-pairing or on their off-hand side. Neither of those options are optimum, in my opinion.
At the end of the day, I feel that Hainsey and Clitsome are similar players, and that when the Jets are fully healthy there is no need to keep both. And since I don't see a 2nd-pairing left-hand shot coming up through our pipeline, I guess the answer is to try and re-sign one of them while moving the other unless Chevy can acquire one through trade (#freeburmi) or via free agency. Ladislav Smid, anyone?
So tell me what you think, Jets fans. Does Chevy keep them for the stretch run and risk losing them both to free agency? Should he attempt to manage his assets and move one of them for something? Is it worth disrupting the chemistry of a team that is currently first in the Southeast Division? Let us know in the comments section below.