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Press Box Musings: Why the Winnipeg Jets Should Mortgage Some of their Future for Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter is already used to wearing different shades of blue, so why not in Winnipeg?  BTW - what in the heck was Johnny Oduya doing here?
Jeff Carter is already used to wearing different shades of blue, so why not in Winnipeg? BTW - what in the heck was Johnny Oduya doing here?

The other night was an atrocious display at the MTS Centre. From section 325, my Valentine's Day date and I witnessed another demoralizing loss where the Jets again only scored one goal, and despite putting forth a valiant effort where we 'tried real hard' we lost to the New York Islanders 3-1 in a must-win game. What makes me so angry about the game is not that we lost, but instead how we lost. The GST-line did what they needed to do as Chris Thorburn opened the scoring in the first, but after the Islanders tied the game and then took the lead, our 'offensive' players put on an abysmal display as they attempted to even the score. Our power-play could barely get into the Islanders zone, let alone set-up, and only a few of the 38 shots we fired at Evgeni Nabokov were any threat at all. Give credit to the Isles for playing a nice road game, but let's be honest here. This was a very winnable game that will likely prove to be two points we will regret not picking up.

We went into the evening only four points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 8th-spot in the East and had a chance to get to within two if we won after the Calgary Flames did us a favor and beat the Buds, but it was all for naught. Add the fact that the Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers in overtime yesterday evening, and it looks even bleaker. At 26-26-6 and 58 points, we are now six points out of 8th and seven points out of the Southeast Division lead, but we are also only five points out of the Eastern Conference cellar. And the Carolina Hurricanes have a game in hand. In fact, every team behind us (other than Montreal) have at least one game in hand.

So with the trade deadline less than two weeks away, and all sorts of fun trade rumors floating around, it appears that it is now decision time for Kevin Cheveldayoff and our Winnipeg Jets. Are we buyers or are we sellers? Do the Jets blow it up or do they stay the course? Does Chevy keep the core that he inherited from Atlanta, or does he put his own stamp on this team and change it up on the fly? Today I present to you 'Why the Jets Should Mortgage Some of the Future for Jeff Carter'. Look for TJCAPS on Friday to present the opposing view about 'Why the Winnipeg Jets Should Stand Pat at the Trade Deadline'.

What makes everything so interesting are the quotes from Andrew Ladd and Claude Noel following the loss. Both the captain and the coach realize that if things don't change from within the room then changes will be coming in the form of player movement. Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun penned the column 'Jets Crying for Help', which included a few quotes that were doozies. The following is what Ladd had to say after the game (I bolded the following for emphasis):

"With the troubles we’ve had scoring, if it’s not going to come from within this room, we probably could use some help, there," he said. "We’ve got a great goaltender, we’ve got D that can move the puck and play both ways."

Yikes. This the captain of your Winnipeg Jets, ladies and gentleman. Other than the good chance he had in close in the 2nd period, I thought that Ladd's Little Wheeler was pretty impotent, and then Ladd basically says that his team needs help from outside of the room. To be honest, I completely appreciate the honesty in this answer, but it is pretty telling when the captain admits that the locker room knows that they need help. Later in the article, coach Claude Noel, who was obviously emoting during his press conference, seemed to let emotion get the best of him. Here is a snippet of one of his more telling quotes (I again bolded the following for emphasis):

"The best players aren’t even executing passes that are simple plays," Noel said. "Maybe we just gotta get new guys out there."

New guys out there, huh? Noel hasn't shied away in the past about saying that he coaches the players that he has and that the Jets are who they are. But this appears to be the first time that the coach has suggested that changes need to be made because other than healthy scratches Eric Fehr, Mark Flood and Randy Jones upstairs we had our entire team healthy and on the ice. Other than the farm, we don't have any new guys out there.

Now, I've been calling for changes all season. I wanted Buff off of the blueline as far back as October. I've been critical of the Jets makeup all season long because I believe that we have one top-line player in Evander Kane and about eleven 2nd liners. I cannot believe that we spend so much money on defense yet rely on Pavelec to bail us out constantly due to the free pizzas that we hand out. We don't have a 4th line, especially when Antro lines up on it like he did the other night.

I'm concerned that if we don't do something here then we will still have the same ex-Thrashers core again next year. Only Jim Slater, Johnny Oduya, Chris Mason and Tim Stapleton are UFA's who we inherited, while Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass, Randy Jones and Mark Flood are the other UFA's that at least Chevy signed. Also, we only have 3 RFA's in Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec and Eric Fehr, who won't be going anywhere unless an offer sheet is made. That means that unless a move is made, the team that Don Waddell put together will more or less still be intact. That statement right there should scare you.

I floated an idea out on Twitter the other day when it became apparent that the Columbus Blue Jackets would consider moving Jeff Carter that we should try to acquire him. Sure he has 11 more years on his deal at $5.27m per, but he is a top-line talent that we are completely devoid of save for Evander Kane. Some people believe that we need to wait 3 or 4 years while Bryan Little, Alexander Burmistrov, Mark Scheifele and whomever else we draft try to develop into that top center. The problem with that is that Evander Kane is an RFA and will be signing his next deal this summer (I assume, unless we trade him or he's poached via an offer sheet). He might only be here for another 3 or 4 years before he is able to leave via free agency because Atlanta burned a few years of his ELC. He needs a center to play with sooner than later IMO, and for some reason I think that Carter could be that guy.

What do we get out of Jeff Carter? A top-line center who can provide offense. A former All-Star who scored 46 goals in 2008-09 and has played 47 playoff games already at the age of 27. He's a big body down the middle that we desperately need. Despite Philly moving his contract this past off-season, they obviously felt that he was talented enough to sign him to this 11-year deal in the first place. Despite his struggles in Columbus this year and his spotty injury history, he is a perennial 30-goal scorer who can play major minutes. Did I mention he can score goals? Coach Noel had the GST line practicing on the power play yesterday. If that isn't a cry out for some offensive help, then I don't know what is.

Call me crazy, but I'd consider moving some combination of Tobias Enstrom, Bryan Little and some prospects and/or (perhaps high) draft picks for Jeff Carter. Whether or not that would get it done I have no idea, but I'm all for the discussion. Heck, I'd move Dustin Byfuglien in the deal if Columbus would want him. I am not saying that we blow up our future for a rental to squeeze into the 8th spot and get annihilated by the New York Rangers in the 1st Round. What I am saying is that we try to change up the roster we inherited and get some of that Thrasher stink off of it. Our depth on the farm isn't anything to write home about either, but the Ice Caps seem to be thriving in the AHL right now so there must be some talent down there. We might have enough valuable pieces to make something happen here.

So there it is Jets fans. I propose that the Jets switch up some of the core that they inherited from Atlanta and make a bold move like acquiring Jeff Carter. It may not be a popular opinion, and feel free to disagree with me in the comments section, but this is the type of move that Chevy could make to really make this his team. I just don't like the way that this team is positioned going into this coming off-season as it is, with too many second liners and redundant defenders but a lack of top-end talent. Also, our lovely climate and small town charms may in fact impede our abilities in the UFA market to sign the top players that we need, so that is why a trade makes sense to me. Acquiring a guy like Carter may seem risky, as he will still have a few years on his contract in eight years when he turns 35, but the certainty of having him under contract for the long term is exactly why I'd make that deal. Don't get me wrong, I really like both Little and Enstrom, but you know the old adage. You have to give to get, and in this particular case I'd do it. A top-line of Jeff Carter centering Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler for the next five or six years? Yes, please.