The Winnipeg Jets continued to make additions to the 2013-14 version of their roster today by signing free agent forward Matt Halischuk to a one-year, $650K contract. Should he be assigned to the AHL, Halsichuk is slated to earn $250K.
Originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Halischuk has played in the Nashville Predators' organization since 2010. Last season with the Predators, Halischuk recorded 5 goals and 6 assists (all at even strength) in 36 NHL games playing in the Predators' bottom six forwards. In 2011-2012, Halischuk's only full NHL season, he recorded 15 goals and 13 assists (again, all at even strength) in 73 games. That is to say that while he's not an offensive juggernaut, Halischuk is not completely devoid of scoring touch.
For those of you wondering why the name sounds familiar, Halischuk may be best known for scoring the golden goal at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships against Sweden.
So what does this signing mean for the Jets? Halischuk is a good skater with decent hands who can potentially play in the Jets bottom six. While he's not particularly large, he won't be criticized for his energy level or work ethic. Playing on a defensive-focused Predators' team, Halischuk has -- not surprisingly -- been a pretty poor possession player over the last two seasons while facing relatively easy competition. Nonetheless, he has still been a positive goal differential player when he's on the ice in each of the past three seasons. That no doubt has a little something to do with Pekka Rinne's spectacular save percentage -- a benefit Halischuk won't have in Winnipeg -- but may also hint at an ability to limit high-quality scoring chances and/or convert on his own (Halischuk is a career 12.6% shooter in 157 NHL games).
#24 / Right Wing /Winnipeg Jets
Jun 01, 1988
|2012 - Matt Halischuk||36||5||6||11||1||10||0||0||1||51||9.8|
|Season||GP||TOI/60||PTS/60||Corsi Rel||On-Ice Sht %||On-Ice Sv%||PDO||Pen Take||Pen Drawn||OZ Strt%|
While I'm happy to see more depth on the wing, I can't help but think that perhaps the Jets aren't prioritizing their most glaring needs, such as their depleted depth at centre. I also can't help but think that if Halischuk is intended to fill an NHL roster spot, there were probably more effective options available in the forms of Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Mueller, Dustin Penner, Nik Antropov, Damien Brunner, Matthew Lombardi, as well as several other players.
In any event, given the right price tag and circumstances -- a sub-$1MM contract and fairly cushy 5-on-5 minutes -- Halischuk could be a valuable depth contributor for the Winnipeg Jets. I'm skeptical of Halischuk being deployed in the right circumstances though, as I expect he will likely be asked to face tougher competition than should be expected of him and I'd like to see the cushy minutes go to more offensively gifted players anyway. Still, how shrewd a move this is will likely depend on Halischuk's utilization.