Player Preview: Matt Halischuk

After appearing in 46 regular season games in his first season with the Jets, Matt Halischuk was allowed to test the open market this off-season. Fast forward a couple months, and Halischuk never signed a deal with another NHL team. Instead, Halischuk was brought back into the mix for the Jets on a two-way deal carrying a $725K cap hit.

Halischuk is a streaky player, and was a former World Junior hero for Team Canada, but he has yet to find consistent scoring in his NHL career. Cheveldayoff is obviously hoping that Halischuk on a two-way deal will provide tons of competition at training camp, allowing players to make the roster decisions up for themselves.

PERFORMANCE

Halischuk has been a bit of an enigma throughout his NHL career. At times it looks like he’s ready to at least provide solid offence from the third line and others it looks like he’d be better suited to becoming a stud AHLer. 

Halischuk had his best years playing with the Nashville Predators, where he scored career highs in the 2011-12 season with 15 goals and 28 points in 73 games.

Halischuk was the main component in the Devils deal to re-acquire Jason Arnott from the Predators, and he has simply just not lived up to the bigger expectations. He can still be effective, but he needs to prove himself this year. 

Players like Benoit Pouliot and Daniel Cleary are a good example of players who had to redefine their game to stay in the NHL. We’ll find out if Halischuk is an Erik Christensen or a Benoit Pouliot this year.

EXPECTATIONS

Choices

There’s not a lot of high-end expectations on a player of Halischuk’s calibre and that bodes well for him. If Halischuk can make the team out of camp, then he will likely play on the team’s 3rd or 4th lines. If he can provide 20-30 points, then he could warrant another contract.

I expect Halischuk to make the team out of camp, especially since he’ll be motivated early to earn another one-way contract. However, the fact that he can be moved to the farm club easily he’ll probably play 15-20 games in St.John’s.

I’m predicting 54 games played and seven goals and nine assists.

MAJOR QUESTIONS

1.    
Did Halischuk take the best offer he could find
on the open market?

It’s interesting that a 26-year-old player
with a decent amount to offer couldn’t get a one-way deal from any of the 30
NHL teams. It seems like Halischuk didn’t receive any interest and decided to
agree to a two-way deal with a slight raise in his NHL salary from the previous
season.

2.    
Will the two-way deal motivate Halischuk or will
it be the reason he ends up in the AHL?

This one could go either way. I fully
expect Halischuk to be motivated, but a two-way deal at camp is more likely to
end up in the AHL then a player on a one-way deal. Cheveldayoff wants
competition at camp, and that’s likely why the deal was mutual.

3.    
Will Halischuk be extended for another season
following this one?

If this was any other NHL team I would say
no, but we’re talking about the Winnipeg Jets here. Most of the time a player
that scores marginally is let go unless he offers something of character.
Halischuk has a good chance to prove he can use his heart and production to
remain with the club.