The NHL Trade Deadline hits tomorrow afternoon, which is usually accompanied by a high number of sick days as people can't wait to sit on the couch and watch the day unfold. What makes it even more exciting for Jets fans is that we haven't seen anything like this in 16 years, but even then the Trade Deadline phenomenon has only recently taken hold as a full day event in the past five or six. It is usually one of the most fun days of the year.
As recently as two weeks ago, it looked like the Winnipeg Jet would be sellers tomorrow. With eight UFA contracts expiring in the summer and another three RFA contracts to deal with, selling would have been the easy option. However, a 4-0-2 clip in their last six games has vaulted the Jets right back into playoff contention, and as of today they are tied with the Florida Panthers for first in the Southeast Division and hold the 8th spot based on the tiebreak. The Winnipeg Jets are in the hunt in their first year to what the Atlanta Thrashers were only able to do once in their existence - make the playoffs.
What is a GM to do in a situation like this? What does it tell a locker room when you are right there fighting for first in the division and you trade away bodies for picks? Can a GM just let eight potential UFA's walk in the summer? Are the Jets actually in a position to be a buyer? With all of these questions floating around, the crew here at Arctic Ice Hockey presents to you our roundtable discussion trying to answer the following question:
What Will Chevy Do?
1) The Winnipeg Jets have 8 players who are UFA's this summer, and reports suggest that Kevin Cheveldayoff has yet to contact them regarding extensions. In your opinion, how should NHL teams proceed with UFA's leading into the deadline? Should the team keep them for the stretch run and risk losing them for nothing in the summer? Shouldn't Chevy have spoken with them by now in order to know which way they were leaning heading into free agency?
TJCAPS: The lack of conversation between UFA’s and Winnipeg’s management is not a cause for concern. Very few players have the luxury of re-negotiating their contracts during the regular season as GM's wait to see what the market has in store for the off-season. I have the utmost confidence that Chevy will re-assess the situation in the off-season and act on the best interests of the Jets. In the meantime these players are members of the Winnipeg Jets and a solid end to their regular season will bode well in their future contracts, here or elsewhere.
Bettman's Nightmare: Even though Chevy hasn't contacted them, I do think that he's discussed the pros and cons of re-signing them. In terms of how I'd approach it: it obviously varies team-to-team. A number of our upcoming UFA's are drastically overpaid, so if we can't get anybody to trade for them we might as well have them play for their contract in the stretch run. If they were underpaid, I'd probably attempt to lock them up now (before they add anything to their list of exploits).
canadian texan: I'm fine with Chevy not having spoken to the UFA's at this point, as the primary focus currently should be the playoff push, not contract negotiations. The team needs as few distractions as possible, and I am just fine with these negotiations waiting until the end of the season. Free Agency only opens on July 1, leaving plenty of time for players to be locked up, or in the case of players like Eric Fehr: not.
arby_18: I admit that I'm slightly concerned with the lack of discussions with our UFA's, as I don't buy the player distraction angle when the GM can just talk to the agent. Having said that, I expect the bulk of these UFA's to be here for the stretch drive as it's hard to sell when we see our name inside the playoff cutoff line.
2) We have seen the Flyers pick up Nicklas Grossman (for a 2012 2nd-Round Pick and a 2013 3rd Round-Pick) and Pavel Kubina (for a 2012 or 2013 2nd-Round Pick, a 2013 4th-Round Pick and prospect Jon Kalinski), and the Predators pick up Hal Gill (and a conditional 5th-Round Pick for a 2012 2nd-Round Pick, F Blake Geoffrion and F John Slaney). It appears to be a sellers market when it comes to UFA defenders, and we have Johnny Oduya sitting here in the same boat. Do we move him for a bounty like the above trades, or keep him and hope to re-sign him at a friendlier cap-hit this spring?
canadian texan: I don't see Oduya willing to take a cap hit to stay on the same team. I say he is the most likely to be dealt in the next week as he often (but not always) plays quite well and honestly I'm interested to see what he can fetch in a sellers market for defenders. If the jets can obtain a forward prospect for him, or a decent draft pick I would say moving him would be in the best interest of the club, as the Jets already have a plethora of D prospects in the system.
TJCAPS: With the current depth of Winnipeg’s blue-line, it appears as though Johnny Odyua will be the odd-man out here. Even at a slight discount, he would still be looking to sign around the 3MM mark (currently 3.5MM) and that money could be better served to re-sign RFA’s Ondrej Pavelec and Evander Kane rather than a player they have slotted as their 5/6 defenseman. It would behoove the Jets to move Oduya while market value is high as they have two players in Randy Jones and Mark Flood who can ably replace the departed Oduya in the interim.
arby_18: If Oduya still has any value left after the way he's played in the past week, then I move him for whatever I can get. The other night against the LIghtning I thought that both Flood and Jones played well while Oduya and Ron Hainsey struggled mightily. As I can't see Oduya taking a big haircut on his next deal, I'd like us to get something for him and move him by tomorrow.
Bettman's Nightmare: Sell on Oduya (if you can). He will not net a prospect, but I'd much rather take a chance on a pick than try to re-sign the guy or hope he improves his game.
3) We've also seen the Sharks pick up veteran forward Dominic Moore (and a 2012 7th Round Pick in return for a 2012 2nd Round Pick), which seems like a steep payment for a UFA depth forward. Then veteran Jerred Smithson is traded to the Panthers for a measly 6th Round Pick. We have two grinding forwards in Jim Slater and Tanner Glass who are both UFA's this summer as well, but are also part of the fan-favorite 'GST' line and both appear to love being in Winnipeg. What is the market for these two guys, and is it worth moving them?
Bettman's Nightmare: As much as I respect GST for taking crap minutes, I'm not convinced those guys are unique talents. That said, I'd keep Jim Slater around for the simple fact that he takes a lot of defensive zone faceoffs, and he wins them at an impressive clip (he's basically a poor man's Manny Malhotra).
arby_18: I really like Slater and Glass and believe that the GST line has been the one constant for us this year. I've also seen reports that they both love it here and I could see them re-signing in the offseason. However, these guys are better suited to a 4th line then our 3rd line, and none of them are getting any younger. If the deal is right, maybe one of them goes.
canadian texan: I'd definitely shop these guys, as once again the Jets are not short on grinding forwards within the system. I love chanting "GST" as much as the next guy, but if it's for the overall improvement of the team I would not be opposed to seeing them go. Because ultimately a few years down the road I don't see them as being part of our team as it comes into it's prime. There are better, younger options out there.
TJCAPS: Should the right offer come around for either Slater or Glass that puts the Jets in a position to be better in the future than they are today, management should explore the possibility of off-loading both these forwards. That said, the team is straddling a playoff birth and have much less depth at forward positions than they do defense. The next three games will go a long way in dictating the future of these players.
4) Kyle Wellwood has been our biggest surprise this season, as the $700k Chevy invested in him has paid for itself over and over already. Despite not starting in the NHL last year and going to Russia, the Sharks decided to take a chance on him for the stretch drive and he performed exceptionally well in the playoffs for them. With his magic mitts and recent playoff experience, some team may want to pry him out of Winnipeg. Is it worth trading him for a draft pick? If he wants to stay here at around the $1.5-2.0 million range, should Chevy spend to keep him here?
arby_18: I've been on #teamwelly for a few years now, as I thought he was underrated in his stints with the Canucks and Sharks. I still can't believe that he had to go to Russia last year, and that we signed him for $700k this year. His numbers are fantastic this year and I believe it's because someone finally gave him top-6 responsibilities. I'd love him to stay, and since the Jets are giving him quality line-mates and important minutes perhaps he'll want to stay too.
Bettman's Nightmare: There's no harm in shopping Welly around, but I'd hesitate to part with him for anything less than a 2nd rounder or a 3rd-4th rounder plus mid-level prospect. Ideally, I'd love for him to stay and continue to gel with Burmi and Kane; I don't see him getting an exorbitant contract after this year from anybody, so we could still be getting plus value on a $1.5 to $2.0 million re-sign.
TJCAPS: Should Wellwood’s hypothetical contract max out at 1.5MM, then it would be beneficial to keep him around as the Jets look for a long term replacement to fill their top six. Term is going to be the deal breaker here and Wellwood’s camp will most likely be looking at long term stability for a player who is in the early stages of starting a family. A two year deal would work best for both parties and if GM and player agent can agree to this then expect Wellwood to return next season, unless another playoff contender wishes to overpay for his services at the deadline.
canadian texan: I think Wellwood needs to stick around. He is an example of a hard working good character guy who we've seen is capable of producing, while showing versatility. His cap hit is and should still be negligible so I would rather see him retained for the time being. He likely would get a decent return, but as the chemistry of the second line improves I see him as the short term solution there until a Klingberg type can step up to fill the void.
5) Chris Mason, Randy Jones, Tim Stapleton and Mark Flood are the other pending UFA's. What should be done with these guys?
arby_18: I don't know if any of these guys will have any value tomorrow, but Stapleton and Jones have been excellent of late and Mason has been a solid backup so perhaps someone will be interested. The only guy I see moving is Jones, as he's impressed in the past week with scouts in the building.
canadian texan: If we can get a return for Mason, great. I'm sold on the capabilities of Pasquale so I'm not concerned about depth, and Mason, while being an outstanding individual, should be able to contribute on a contender going forward, as at the very least he adds reliable depth. Mason is also getting up there in age and is not a long term answer in net. I don't mind losing the other 3 (Stapleton, Jones and Flood) especially Jones, who is nowhere near worth what he gives you. I do think Flood is capable of contributing and wouldn't mind seeing his services retained, while Stapleton's versatility (LW, C, RW, point on PP) is also a valuable commodity that I wouldn't mind keeping around.
Bettman's Nightmare: Jones and Flood can go; the time is ripe for Postma and Kulda to make the jump. I don't fret about backup goaltenders too much; we can find value in free agency if Mason asks for much more than what he's getting. Stapleton won't cost much, and I think he's an ideal 4th liner (position versatility, can plug-and-play pretty well, powerplay bonus).
TJCAPS: Management is best to take a wait-and-see approach with this group. If they are unable to move Oduya for a reasonable return, Flood or Jones could be next on the docket in an attempt to return assets to the team. If Mason can still compete next year – which it appears he can – then he should be re-signed while Edward Pasquale continues to develop in the AHL. Stapleton is a player the Jets use in a limited role and while his return wouldn’t surprise me, he is not essential to the teams rebuild.
6) What is your overall impression of the Winnipeg Jets as they head down the home stretch this season? What are their needs, and can they be addressed next Monday at the Trade Deadline? Are we buyers, sellers, both or neither?
TJCAPS: At this juncture, it’s hard to determine what the Jets will do as they are in the heat of a playoff chase they probably didn’t expect to be in. It will come down to what management ultimately decides is more important: making the playoffs this year or setting themselves up to make the playoffs – with regularity – in the future.
arby_18: The Jets are a blue-collar bunch of grinders with some emerging top-line talent in Kane and Wheeler and a stellar net-minder in Pavelec. However, there are many flaws (ie. bad contracts) on this team that I don't think can be addressed tomorrow and we'll have to wait until those contracts either expire or can be moved. I think we are minor buyers and minor sellers. Nothing fancy for the Jets tomorrow, just like the GST line. Maybe a Bryan Allen can be brought in while an Oduya can be moved out.
Bettman's Nightmare: The current Jets are a solid team for where they are at in current player development and where that places them for future success. I would love it if we made the playoffs (especially if we did and Toronto and Calgary didn't), but we've already proven we're a better team than last year's Thrashers. If anything, we need to find a solution for Dustin Byfuglien. Either we need someone who can truly sync with him and reduce the impact of his defensive lapses, or we need to move him. All told, I think we'd be sellers if we could right now (I don't honestly think Chevy will shop Bustin), but we only really have a couple of movable pieces.
canadian texan: I'd say the Jets are a team with good upside for the future, and while the playoffs are obtainable this season, I think the overall goal remains that short term pain will be taken on the chin if it means long term gain. The Jets have decent depth in the organization, but scoring remains something that could be improved. Our two top lines have proven in the past few games that they can contribute, but we need the defenders and grind lines to contribute too. You'll notice that in the game against Philadelphia that the Flyers are able to be dangerous with more than just 2 lines, and as the Jets go forward they should seek a similar ability. ultimately this team should be sellers at the deadline, and the more big cntracts they can shed over the next year the better, as younger, cheaper options present themselves.
7) We inherited the Atlanta Thrashers, and by and large this team still features the core that came up from Georgia. Are there any drastic changes that need to be made, either now or in the offseason? Or does Chevy just wait for contracts to expire and let the youth in the system grow?
canadian texan: We’ll have to absorb some of the pain of the Waddell era as the ability to offload hefty contracts of Hainsey and Antropov (or even Byfuglien and Enstrom) will be difficult as they don’t play to the level of their contracts. Ultimately, I see us continuing to add pieces to the youth system, while letting the pieces already in place flourish. The occasional free agent signing to add depth scoring would be acceptable as well going forward. And if they want to trade for Bobby Ryan or John Tavares… well I’d be dreaming because I don’t see it happening
Bettman's Nightmare: The Jets have the makings of a solid team by 2013-14; I think Kane and Burmistrov can become 2/3 of a solid 1st line, and Ladd's Little Wheeler can take the tougher matchups on the 2nd line. By 2013-14, hopefully Scheifele and Klingberg are being groomed by getting some 3rd line time in the NHL - I could see Spencer Machacek on their right side. If not, I could see Cormier centering the 3rd instead, with Scheifele on the wing. In other words, I'm already envisioning a pretty good team if we avoid torpedoing our forwards. Defence-wise, I do think we'll have some tough decisions to make, though losing some of our albatross contracts will help. I'm a believer in Zach Redmond. Basically, we can stand pat and let these guys get here, and hopefully add some prospects through the next couple of drafts. Let's not forget we already have a couple of guys in the system (Ivan Telegin, Adam Lowry, Austen Brassard) who could pan out to help fill the 3rd and 4th lines.
arby_18: The Jets are actually exceeding my expectations, as I doubted the playoffs from the beginning but they've played some great hockey at times this year. The core that I was sour on to begin the season has slowly been changing my mind, and guys like Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little have really improved after their awful starts to the season. Our defensive group though worries me a ton, as they don't look very good with Zach Bogosian out of the lineup, but overall it looks like Chevy has some players to work with. And next year when the contracts to Nik Antropov and Ron Hainsey expire? Now we're talking...
TJCAPS: A slow and steady rebuild is what this team requires. They have come a long way from their 2009-10 season and are only a few pieces away from being perennial contenders. The teams’ prospect pool needs to be replenished and whether that is through trades or the NHL Entry Draft remains to be seen. Management should be given the next two years to acquire the depth necessary to make this a reality. Patience is key.