At the age of 26, Nathan Beaulieu has established himself as something of a journeyman blueliner. Having spent the majority of his career with Montreal, Nate’s spent the last few seasons plying his trade with the eternally-struggling Sabres. Buffalo then did him the tender mercy of releasing him to Winnipeg’s employ, all for the cost of a measly 6th round pick. Nate’s arrival was desperately needed, as the Jets were hotwiring defensive line-ups in Josh Morrissey’s absence. It didn’t take long for Beaulieu to make the active starting rotation and, eventually, find himself paired with Jacob Trouba.
Beaulieu is more or less a third-pairing defenseman at this stage of his career, and the Beaulieu-Trouba pairing was in over its head by a fair margin. That said, Nate can successfully complete more than one pass per game and generally made competent defensive reads when asked to. That’s already quite a bit more to his credit than roughly half of Winnipeg’s blueline corps. Nate wasn’t very flashy and still had a few galaxy-brain decisions every now and then, but he provided decent value for virtually no cost in assets. If the Jets decide to renew his contract this summer, he’d be the ideal third-pairing defenseman to replace Ben Chiarot.
Throwing out the Sabres results, Beaulieu actually seems to be a decently competent defender when used effectively. He probably shouldn’t play 20 minutes a night, but feeding him softer minutes will be more than enough value. While Nate only played a handful of games for the Jets, he didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. That, in and of itself, is quite the accomplishment, so kudos to Beaulieu for stepping in to a rough line-up.
If Nate returns next season, I wouldn’t mind him being a partner for Tucker Poolman. The third pair desperately needs to avoid the return of Joe Morrow or Tyler Myers, so I hope the Jets are able to get Beaulieu to stay on a value contract. I have low expectations for the defensive organization next season, but Nate hanging around would at least shore the depth up. If he reverts to his Buffalo form, it’s probably not worse than what the Jets are used to.