Allow me to preface this article by saying the following: I love Ron Hainsey. He is not some shitty defenceman completely devoid of talent. He is not directly responsible for every defensive shortcoming the Winnipeg Jets have suffered this season. Nor does the Benny Hill theme song cue itself every time he hits the ice.
Hainsey, you see, has taken the brunt of Winnipeg's acute confirmation bias; the kind of backwards logic that allows Zach Bogosian to roam unscathed of criticism whenever he makes the same boneheaded plays (trust me, it happens) that fans would string Hainsey from the rafters for making, should they get the chance. It's deliciously ironic that a player deemed by some as "soft" currently ranks among the NHL leaders in blocked shots -- one of the NHL's toughest and most thankless jobs -- but no matter; the bias sees what it wants.
Let me delve in further by explaining that it's not Ron's fault that the Atlanta Spirit management group drove a dump truck full of money up to his front door in the summer of 2008 when he was brought in to be what Dustin Byfuglien ultimately became. He's not an incompetent blunder reel, but rather a reliable NHL defenceman who could land the Jets' a fortune come deadline day. His NHL.com stat page speaks the truth regarding his play. His advanced stat page confirms said truths to even the most ardent of naysayers. There is no alternate universe in which the Jets aren't significantly worse off without the services of Ron Hainsey.
But given that defencemen of Hainsey's ilk are currently earning team's a killing on the NHL's trade market, is it in Winnipeg's best interests to sever their ties with Ron Hainsey?
Weighing the Pros:
Since last Monday, we have seen Douglas Murray, Kent Huskins, Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester find new homes in the NHL, confirming what many already knew: team's are looking to stock pile defencemen for their spring playoff runs. With the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks still looking to add blue-line depth, there are plenty suitors looking to add a player the caliber of Ron Hainsey to their roster. As we approach closer to the deadline, this should only serve to help inflate value.
The current return for most defencemen seems to be mid-round picks, normally at least one (if not both) being a second rounder. The 2013 NHL Entry Draft is said to be one of the deepest in recent memory, so for a team that already bolsters nine potential selections in their back pocket, adding a few more picks would aid in TNSE's further building of the team.
Additionally, if the Jets' could likely parlay Hainsey and a draft pick of their own for a player of RFA status, it would go a long way in addressing some core depth issues with the infusion of talented youth.
Weighing the Cons:
However, there aren't many options lining up in 2013 free agency who can fill the void left by Hainsey. Of the defencemen set to become UFA's this summer, only Joe Corvo, Marek Zidlicky and Wade Redden strike me as adequate plug-and-play replacements who might be inclined to sign in Winnipeg. Any situations involving the promotion Jacob Trouba as a top-four NHL defenceman should be weighed with the utmost caution as there could be huge ramifications with his future development if he is rushed too quickly.
Not to mention, no matter what kind of return the Jets are to collect on Hainsey, it likely wouldn't be beneficial to a 2013 playoff run, should that be a deal-breaker. Management will now have the next thirty-six hours to answer tough questions, namely how important are the playoffs this year and what does life without Ron Hainsey look like?
It is of my opinion that Kevin Cheveldayoff knows exactly what Hainsey's intentions are heading into this off-season. If he is set on testing the market -- or even if he is hinting the slightest trepidations -- the Jets should move him for tangible assets while they can as opposed to losing him for nothing.
As for the 2013 playoffs, let's be real with ourselves; even if Winnipeg makes the post season, their lack of overall depth will hinder them from making any noise come May. TNSE shouldn't leverage a little extra cash this spring for the big picture and I'd like to think our management team is smart enough to realize that.
However, if contract discussions are positive and there are compelling odds of Hainsey re-signing at a slight discount or even around the 4MM mark, then Winnipeg absolutely should extend their relationship with this cities number one whipping boy.
You'll all be sure to hate that scenario, I'm sure.