Zach Yuen, the Winnipeg Jets' 4th-round selection in 2011 (119th overall), was not signed to an entry-level contract by yesterday's 4:00 PM CST deadline and will now re-enter the NHL Entry Draft this summer in New Jersey. And while the details have yet to be given (in fact, it's been eerily quiet around town from both TNSE and the local media), this is a disaster for a team that is supposed to be "building through the draft".
But how can it be a disaster if we don't know the details? Well, in my opinion it's simple. This isn't just a case of a player and an organization parting ways. The Jets traded two draft picks on the draft floor to the San Jose Sharks (Carolina's 5th-round pick, 133rd overall, and Calgary's 7th-round pick, 194th overall, both in 2011 draft) to move up to the 119th spot to get the guy they wanted. This means that Yuen obviously interviewed really well with either Chevy or his staff or the interview process was done poorly, because the end result is that the Jets burned two draft picks, not just one, to pick a guy who they really wanted two years ago but who walked away yesterday. Great.
So what did happen here? I doubt that we'll get a full and transparent explanation and will likely hear about how the two sides just couldn't come to an agreement, but you cannot deny that the optics of this situation are awful. A young left-handed d-man who led his WHL team's blueline in points this season is surely somebody that the Jets would want around, no? And yes, his +/- dropped from 45 to -1 this year, but the Tri-City Americans went from a record of 50-18-0-4 to 40-27-0-5 this past season which could help partially explain it. Do the Jets as an organization have such tremendous depth that they can allow their own talented youngsters to walk? It's not like the Jets are anywhere close to the 50-contract limit and I don't see a ton of talent down on the blue-line in St. John's...
No matter what you choose to believe about why this relationship between organization and player was broken before it even started, the end result is that the Jets literally wasted two picks on a guy who they thought would want to play here. And while Yuen may have changed his mind, this is not something that a team like the Jets can afford to allow to happen, especially when Kevin Cheveldayoff talks about how important his draft picks are. Winnipeg is likely to struggle to attract UFA's already, but if their own draft picks don't want to play here? I really hope that this is not the case, but until we hear definitively all we can do is speculate but none of the reasons that I can come up with are good ones.
Here is a collection of tweets from around the Twittersphere and their reactions:
Still pretty surprised that Zach Yuen hasn't been signed by the Winnipeg Jets. He's a very underrated prospect at a key position.— Cody Nickolet (@WHLFromAbove) May 31, 2013
I was waiting on this one to be sure. Winnipeg did not sign 2011 4th round pick D Zach Yuen. Think he will certainly be picked as a re draft— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 1, 2013
Zach Yuen goes unsigned by the Jets and will re-enter the NHL draft. Could see him being drafted in the late 2nd/3rd round this time around.— Cody Nickolet (@WHLFromAbove) June 1, 2013