We heard in the second intermission of last night’s game what we all wanted to hear – that Cheveldayoff knows we need to upgrade the right wing and that there are other additions that could be made. He also spoke of the need to continue to build for the future. We can hope that this team intends to continue to add NHL hockey players along with prospects. The ‘be good’ model we can call it. Inside are some (okay, many) thoughts on what shape that might take today.
While it can be tempting to look at the Penguins, Blackhawks, and so forth and point to the cluster of talent accumulated by being full-on bad, Jets fans should remember that the Trashers were just that for a long time. Zach Bogosian (3rd overall, 2008), Evander Kane (4th overall, 2009), Alex Burmistrov (8th overall, 2010), Mark Scheifele (7th overall, 2011), and Jacob Trouba (9th overall, 2012) represent the heart of the order, and the team has added other former top 10 picks in Blake Wheeler (5th overall, 2004) and Andrew Ladd (4th overall, 2004). Jokinen (3rd overall, 1997), Antropov (10th overall, 1998), Little (12th overall, 2006) and Hainsey (13th overall, 2000) come from the left half of the draft board as well.
Many teams go into ‘ruin for Drouin’ scenarios and don’t emerge. The teams that do emerge are the ones that add NHL players around their young talent, and who use young players as cap-friendly additions to squads with depth and skill until they are ready to take on larger roles, pushing out older players only by earning the ice time. It seems Cheveldayoff understands this, and today will be a massive tell in the direction of the organization. Will we keep drifting toward the bottom in order to secure more young talent? Or will Cheveldayoff use some of his $30M in cap space next year to his advantage in a year when many teams will be feeling the dollar crunch?
(All figures from NHL Numbers)
Ron Hainsey, 4.5: Pending UFA
Hainsey is the true marker of whether this team intends to compete. There has been no mention of contract talks with Hainsey, Kulda was brought over from Europe, Trouba turned pro, and the Jets are still talking future. Hainsey is a tough minutes defender (top 25 in quality of competition among defencemen who have played 20 games), and plays over 3 minutes a night on the PK. He’s not perfect but he’s not getting buried either. Regehr has been much worse in the same role for Buffalo and netted them two 2nd ronders.
My preference: His contract comparables are all in the 3.5 to 5 million range, but I still prefer they sign this guy. It’s the old tale of not letting go of a role player until you have someone else to fill that role. Hainsey’s role is the toughest minutes on the team and the list of gritty tough minute defencemen after him on this roster starts and ends with Mark Stuart – a poor man’s Ron Hainsey.
My prediction: He will be traded. The return will be similar to Regehr. Perhaps Cheveldayoff negotiates for a 1st in 2014 instead, or a conditional asset based on re-signing him.
Nik Antropov, 4.062: Pending UFA
He’s sixth in team scoring despite being miscast for much of the season as a checking forward, and playing almost exclusively on the third line with one legitimate linemate. He and Kyle Wellwood have some chemistry, and he seems to be the only player getting points on the powerplay. It’s curious that he didn’t get more of an opportunity with Kane given the lack of success Jokinen has had with him. Antropov’s scoring has declined since his first season with the Thrashers four seasons ago that saw him record 67 points in 76 games. Still, his scoring is needed on a team with no other solutions.
My preference: Keep him, move him up the roster or give him a LW and monitor his success. A short-term deal at the end of the year may allow the team to get rid of other, less effective players.
My prediction: The Jets keep him this deadline. His trade value isn’t high, the team is desperate for centre help and scoring, and an injury last night may affect his eligibility to be traded.
Antti Miettien, 1.351: Pending UFA
Another player who has been miscast. He’s useless as a second line scorer, but a value contract for the bottom six and a guy who can play a finesse checking role and the penalty kill. Smart players have value, but this guy is a horse being told to act like a zebra.
My preference: Players like Mittens are currently fetching between a 7th (Tangradi) and a 4th (Handzus). If the market for him is at the low end, you might as well keep him. If a 4th can be had, ship him out.
My prediction: The same. Tires are kicked, but he stays a Jet.
Kyle Wellwood, 1.6: Pending UFA
This guy drives possession, makes a handful of incredible passes every game, and gets rewarded with time in the pressbox and a lot of ‘yeah, but why isn’t he better?’ talk. He’s always struggled to find a job, and is an unfortunate tweener in an NHL that still loves size in the bottom six, and a first-shot-scorer in the top six.
My preference: Wellwood is a valuable depth player and an under utliized powerplay scorer. Keep him and sign him.
My prediction: No one wants him. He stays a Jet but they let him walk at the end of the year.
Olli Jokinen, 4.5 x 1 more year remaining
It’s a long shot, but Olli Jokinen has not worked out in Winnipeg so far, and if they decide to sell, he will be shopped. His extra year may tempt a team looking for some centre stability – perhaps some teams that are considered sellers even – but his poor showing as a rental with New York a few years ago, along with a poor outing this season likely makes his price somewhere around an I.O.U.
My preference: In some ways, I think he’s addition by subtraction. He’s been brutal this year and as I wrote previously, there’s no reason to think he’s going to turn it around significantly when we look at his advanced stats. Please sell him. And please get a 3rd.
My prediction: He stays another year and leaves at next year’s deadline for a 4th.
Paul Postma, 0.55: Pending RFA
Postma is 24 and still projecting as a specialist. His play reads are wonky, his range is limited at the NHL level, and the result is that his play looks inconsistent. Truthfully, it’s just differently exposed. If he has value, move him. Trouba has signed, Stuart and Clitsome are coming back from injury, and Kulda hasn’t seen a game. Next year Redmond will be back as well. Trade Postma if he has any value as a depth offensive defenceman to a team.
My preference: I prefer to get more than a 7th.
My prediction: He gets moved in a package deal as a prospect.
The wishlist is known – a RW who can score, a centre who isn’t Olli Jokinen to play with Kane, and a two-way LW for the third line. WIth all the added bodies on defence, this team likely doesn’t need more. But quality over quantity, and a lot rides on what happens with Hainsey. The Jets can’t be ‘renting’ players, but could be using the dropping cap along with the disappointment of various teams to secure under-valued players with years left on their contract.
Drew Stafford, 4.0 x 2 more years – We talked about him here. He makes a ton of sense as a long-term add for the team as he can move up and down the roster, shoot, hit, and play both ways.
Martin Havlat, 5.0 x 2 more years – I haven’t heard his name on the market, but his stint with San Jose isn’t much more impressive than his stint with Minnesota and they seem to be selectively selling. He’s a player (like James Neal) who needs coaching support. The system has to emphasize his vertical range and get him in his comfortable scoring locations. He has the same explosive speed we see out of Evander Kane and I wonder if this team can give him some life again. The best part is that he’s likely cheap to acquire considering his name value as he’s a huge pain their cap, and we just happen to have a lot of cap space for next year.
Sean Couturier, 1.375 x 1 more year – For some reason, I keep hearing this kid’s name come up. A concussion last year, not as much success in a more shallow forward group this year with an awful defence group behind him. He was the consensus pick when we took Scheifele, and there’s a chance we could have both. It likely costs more than the Jets want to let go, but what about sending Hainsey the other way in the package?
Matt Read, 0.900 x 1 more year – A young scorer who plays RW. Sign me up. Rumours circulated earlier in the year that he was available when he was scratched and then played in an elevated role at a game with scouts in attendance. But then he was awesome and earned the elevated role and likely took himself off the market. But dare to dream.
Curtis Glencross, 2.55 x 2 more years – Man this guy would look good on that third line! He’s everything you could ever want James Wright to be – fast, tough, hard to play against, smart, and can score a little.
Antoine Vermette, 3.75 x 2 more years – A versatile player who could take the second line centre job, or move to the third line LW. He can play in all three situations, score and check. He’s an under-rated player in the league due to playing in small markets and having an ability that hockey media struggles with – intelligence.
In my mind, the Jets are in a perfect position to execute a ‘fast’ rebuild (in that they have already added so many rebuilding pieces, it will seem fast). By holding on to their picks this year, but trading 2014 draft assets to secure players with years remaining on their contracts to fill obvious roster holes, the Jets could add both NHL players and wins and as many as 4 prospects from a draft with very high-end talent through the first 60 selections. It would require moving bodies both onto and off the roster today. It would also require faith that the picks they move in 2014 aren’t lottery picks. This team plus Stafford and Vermette is much better. Adding Trouba and Scheifele next season make them even better. To my mind, not adding help at his deadline makes for a miserable season next year, wastes another year on two ELC’s that are important to the oranization, and procures a player from the 2014 draft whose effectiveness may or may not coincide with the window established on this team already by the Bogosian through Trouba picks. It’s risky to keep pushing the window back. I hope Cheveldayoff takes a stand today and shows us that the window starts now.