Tyler Myers’ time in Winnipeg may be coming to an end as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-2019 NHL season.
There has been no word yet from management on whether the Jets will try and re-sign the 28-year-old defender, trade him, or let him walk in free agency where he should not have such a hard time finding himself a new home. This is the last season of Myers’ 7-year contract worth $38,500,000 with an annual average value of $5,500,000.
In a terrific first season in the NHL in 2009-2010, Myers recorded 11 goals and 37 assists totalling up to 48 points in 82 games. He finished in 11th place in points by a defensemen and third in rookie scoring. The only rookies to have recorded more points than Myers in his rookie season were Matt Duchene (55) and John Tavares (54).
Myers was nominated for the Calder Trophy (Rookie Of The Year) alongside Matt Duchene and Jimmy Howard, beating them out to take home the Calder. As a defensemen in his first season he had more points than other notable rookies that year who have gone on to have very successful careers such as Jamie Benn, Ryan O’Reilly, Victor Hedman, Artem Anisimov, and more. No rookie defender has recorded more points since Myers did in 2009-2010. The closest anyone has come is Zach Werenski who recorded 47 points in 2016-17. Some rookie defenders have come very close to beating his feat, but played less games. If they played more it can be assumed that they would have recorded as many, if not more, points than Myers. This is just an indicator of how good Myers was as a rookie, and it is why the Sabres signed him to a 7-year deal worth $38,500,000.
After his rookie season, Myers never had the same offensive output again. He put up a respectable 37 points in 80 games in his second season, but after that he never again played like he did in his rookie season. This may be due to injuries. This past season (2017-2018) was the first time since his rookie season where he played a full 82 games.
Myers is a valuable asset for the Winnipeg Jets and in the time that he has spent in Winnipeg he has played decent for the most part. But he is not worth another expensive long-term contract for the Jets. At the seasons end the Winnipeg Jets already have multiple restricted and unrestricted free agents to deal with, not including Tyler Myers.
As it stands right now with the teams current roster, they are expected to have about $23,722,503 (per CapFriendly) in salary cap space this offseason (not including increased cap space for 2019-2020 season, trades, signings during the season, etc). The biggest priorities for the Jets will be signing Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba to extensions. They will still have multiple UFA’s and RFA’s to sign after that, including Brandon Tanev, Eric Comrie, depth defenders, etc. Signing Tyler Myers on top of that just does not seem like a realistic possibility without trading other notable roster players, which is something that should not be done in order to retain the services of Tyler Myers.
The Jets have two main options for how they could and should handle this situation. They could A), have Myers spend the rest of the season with them and lose him in free agency for nothing. Option B) would be to trade Myers, preferably at/around the trade deadline as that is when teams are willing to give up to most for help in the playoffs.
The problem that will arise in people's minds if the Jets do trade Myers at the trade deadline would be now they have a hole in their roster going into the playoffs, which they are expected to make. Although this may indeed be a possibility, there are ways around this problem. The first is by bringing up Sami Niku. Niku failed to make the team to start the season, but will likely see time in the NHL this season. Niku was arguably the best defensemen in the AHL last season. He won the Eddie Shore Award which is awarded every year to the best defensemen in the AHL. What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that Niku did this as a rookie in the AHL.
If Niku is not deemed ready for the NHL after Myers is traded, then the Jets can call up Tucker Poolman to the roster. Poolman spent the 2017-2018 season split between the Winnipeg Jets and their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose, and even played in 2 playoff games for the Jets. Former first-round draft pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Logan Stanley is also eligible to be called up to Winnipeg, as he is playing in the AHL for the Moose. The Jets will have multiple options to replace Myers if they are in the playoffs without having to trade for a replacement defensemen.
If the Jets do still decide that they cannot rely on the defenders they have in the AHL to replace Myers then they could always trade a draft pick or an asset for a want-away defender. They could try to pull off a trade similar to what the Montreal Canadiens gave up in exchange for Mike Reilly, as the Minnesota Wild received a 2019 Fifth round pick from the Canadiens in exchange for Reilly. As of now the trade looks to have paid off well for Montreal, as Reilly looks very solid to start the season. If the Jets could pull off a deal like that it could significantly help then and reassure fans ahead of the playoffs. The Jets pulled off a similar deal last season when they traded a 4th round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Joe Morrow who performed well in the playoffs and even earned a contract extension from the Jets.
The most important question now is what can the Winnipeg Jets acquire from trading Tyler Myers? What is the point of trading away an experienced defender who is heading into free agency and would leave a potential hole in the Jets defense? As nervous as the idea may make some fans, trading him may really make the most sense. Myers has been helpful to the Jets but is typically a third pairing defender who makes $5,500,000 per year. The Jets right side of their defence is already skilled with Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien, Myers helps make the right side all the better but it does not seem like it would be significantly worse without him. They could be able to get a significant return by trading him which would make losing Myers all the more sensible for Winnipeg.
Players are always more valuable around the trade deadline. It is the time when even players who are having bad seasons find themselves being dealt for significant returns. Tyler Myers should not be an exception to this trend. He would help solidify most teams blue-lines and make a difference for teams in need of defensive help come playoff time. He should be able to command a high draft pick as well as a prospect or a young player. Depth defensemen do not usually command as high returns as top-six defensemen but although Myers is more of a depth blue-liner for the Jets he would not be for most other teams. He is capable of playing significant amounts of ice time and when healthy can also contribute offensively. Myers is not the type of player that will provide high amounts of offensive help but he will do his fair share for the team. The teams that will probably be most keen on Myers would be teams trying to hang on to a playoff spot or trying to enter the playoff race. Teams that are either in, or desperately trying to secure a wild card playoff spot are the ideal candidate for a potential Tyler Myers trade.
If the Winnipeg Jets do indeed decide to trade Tyler Myers, they should not trade him to a team in their own conference, much less their own division. The Jets do not want to strengthen a team that they will be playing a lot throughout the season or potentially in the playoffs. It would make more sense to trade Myers to a team in the Eastern Conference as not only would the Jets have to play that team less, but in the playoffs they would not be strengthening a team in their own conference that has a chance of beating them. There is a better degree of likelihood that if both Winnipeg and whatever team Tyler Myers ends up on make the playoffs then they would not face each other if Myers were to play for an Eastern Conference team. The only way the Jets would have a chance at meeting Myers in the playoffs if he was on a team in the Eastern Conference would be if they met in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Winnipeg Jets prospect pool is not the strongest in the NHL by any means. With Kristian Vesalainen and Jack Roslovic both on the Jets roster, their prospect pool is all the more barren. Trading Myers would help begin to replenish things by giving the Jets more picks and prospects that will add to the depth of their farm system. Although Myers may not be able to get the Jets high end prospects and/or high draft picks, he can still get the Jets a more than fair return. Most likely a late first or second round pick and a decent prospect with NHL potential. Depending on the demand and need for defence at the trade deadline the return may differ but it is safe to say that is around what Winnipeg fans can expect to acquire in return for Myers.
At the end of the day, this is likely to be Myers’ last season in Winnipeg whether he is traded or not. It will be virtually impossible for the Jets to be able to sign Laine, Connor, Trouba, a backup goaltender, and depth players along with Myers. If the Jets are going to lose him anyways, they may as well get something instead of losing him for nothing.