The gnashing of teeth and outraged tweets from Winnipeg Jets fans could be heard all the way to Saskatchewan as the NHL trade deadline came and went, with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff making no trades, and grabbing Florida Panther Mike Santorelli off the waiver wire. And it was exactly the right thing for the Winnipeg Jets.
"Why didn't he trade Hainsey!" came the cries. "He should have dumped Antropov for anything!" shouted others. "Everyone not named Ladd, Wheeler, Little, Kane, Byfuglien, Bogosian, Enstrom or Pavelec should be dumped for picks!" yelled some drunk in the cheap seats.
With the team currently in the middle of a four game losing streak, now only two points up on the Washington Capitals (who also have two games in hand), the desire to see Cheveldayoff make an impact move is high amongst the fan base. Fans who want some playoff success to go along with the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg. The problem with that sort of thinking - the "dump some picks and prospects for a rental" - is that, as Chevy himself said in his post-deadline press conference, there just isn't that much for him to work with.
Ask yourself this - who have the Jets brought up from their AHL affiliate in St. John's that has made an impact this year? The kind of player who looked ready to take a full time spot on the roster? Patrice Cormier? He averaged about three minutes a game over the last 5. No points in 10 games. Derek Meech? 13 games, no points, but a surprising +1, given how lost he has often looked on the ice. Zach Redmond is probably the best looking of the bunch (1-3-4 in 8GP), but is sidelined until next season following an injury in Carolina.
Those three (and now Aaron Gagnon - who went 11-13-24 with the Ice Caps this year) are the sum total of promotions the Winnipeg Jets have made from their farm club. There doesn't seem to be much on the horizon, either. With that in mind, Chevy has been stockpiling draft picks for what is expected to be a draft that is deep in talent. With six picks in the first three rounds, he is in a good position to get some talent for the future.
It's at this point I can hear some readers say "Exactly why he should have moved Hainsey and Antropov for more picks!"
I think you're wrong again.
Moving players out for picks and prospects isn't always a bad thing, but it isn't always a good thing either. To begin with, it disrupts the room. While the room could probably use a good shaking at this point of the year, based on the apparent effort levels we've seen from the team, this is still the team that has been hanging on to the Southeast division lead. Throwing pieces aside can affect morale, which shows up in the win / loss columns, and right now, this is a team that needs every point it can muster. Second, you have to consider what exactly was being offered to the Jets in return for pending UFAs like Hainsey and Antropov. Talk out of Boston was that Hainsey wasn't really on the radar. Antropov only popped up in sentences that began "The Winnipeg Jets might move..." There was not "...is a team said to be interested in acquiring him." In fact, most of the talk centered around a possible deal between Winnipeg and the Buffalo Sabres, involving Alex Burmistrov and Drew Stafford. My feeling is that Buffalo would have wanted at least one pick coming back with Burmistrov, and possibly more - and Cheveldayoff was almost certainly unwilling to let those picks go.
It also comes to down to the team culture and identity that the front office is trying to build for the Winnipeg Jets. This city isn't New York or Los Angeles or Toronto. It needs to give players a different reason to want to play here. That will come from what the players themselves say about their experiences here. So far, it's been very positive: going above and beyond in helping players relocate from Atlanta, making sure players are well taken care of on and off the ice, and, most importantly, standing by their players. Being loyal to their employees will help the organization in the long run, and dumping players simply based on a pending UFA status (in the midst of a playoff race, no less) makes it clear that the club will show minimal loyalty to anyone else in the same situation in the future. By not moving Hainsey and Antropov, Chevy sends the message that he expects them both (and the rest of the team) to compete here, to the end of the season, as part of the team. Not just until he can unload them for a pick or prospect. There is something to be said for showing that kind of faith. It doesn't show short term results, but the good will and consideration a reputation like that can bring a club is worth more than one round of the playoffs.
Kevin Cheveldayoff is working to undo a lot of damage done by previous ownership in Atlanta, and that takes time to accomplish. It's not always going to be fun to watch, and it won't happen overnight, but it is obvious that he has a road map laid out. The first step is to get a full stable of prospects to either develop or deal as time goes on. After that, he'll start worrying about playing hockey in May.
That being said, I think Chevy did make one critical error in the period leading up to the deadline.
He didn't claim Jussi Jokinen off the waiver wire.
One of the big pieces missing on the Jets is a right winger for the second line. Someone who can bring out the best in Evander Kane because Annti Miettinen isn't it. While Jokinen wouldn't be a perfect match, he would be, to answer one columnists question, "decent". Or take this tweet from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) "Sutter, on Jokinen: "He's a pretty smart two-way player and he's skilled, has some talent, but he's a pretty good player in his own end.""
Yeah, there is certainly no need for that kind of player in these parts.
Extra bonus: Jussi is winning 59.4% of his faceoffs this year. As a team, the Jets are at 48.4% (26th).
We all know that Jussi Jokinen would not suddenly develop into the next Jari Kurri or Teemu Selanne. He most certainly would have been an upgrade at the position, at a reasonable cost of $3 million next season. The team was willing to spend $4.5 million on Olli Jokinen, and his offensive numbers are no better than Jussi's.
If you're still not sure he would have been an improvement, here is a small list of comparable players (based on age, cap hit, general production): V. Filppula, Chris Kelly, Joel Ward, Steve Ott, Matt Moulson, Tomas Kopecky, Radim Vrbata. You're looking at guys who average in the area of 0.5 points per game (41/season). Currently, Winnipeg right wingers not named Blake Wheeler have combined for a whopping 18 points (Miettinen, Wellwood, Peluso, Thorburn) over 87 games (or 0.2ppg).
This was a chance for Chevy to address a real need on the team until he had drafted / developed a more suitable replacement. He could have had it at no cost as a waiver claim. I really think it's a missed opportunity.