The Jets need for a true left-handed defensemen has became increasingly evident over the last few years. With Jacob Trouba playing on his off wing far too often and with the abilities of Toby Enstrom deteriorating, it’s clear that the Jets need to make an upgrade on their left side defense.
While Kevin Cheveldayoff may not be the most active of general managers on the trade market, he has lots to play around with if he desires to explore a deal for a defenseman. Drafting and developing has been the blueprint of this franchise since day one. While sticking to that plan, the Jets have acquired loads of assets that have assembled one of the leagues best prospect groups.
The reality is, the Jets can’t hold on to all of there prospects. There isn’t enough spots for all the youngsters to crack the roster and because of that certain prospects could become expandable. Winnipeg has a flurry of draft picks, prospects and other valuable pieces that they could use to muster up a package to land a left handed defenseman.
Obviously, you can never have enough prospects and picks. But with the Jets roster looking to be much more competitive next year, they’ll be looking to take a step forward. Before that can happen, they’ll have to figure out what to do on the left side of the blue line.
What are the pieces they have in play?
An underrated and rather forgotten asset that the Jets own is there 22nd overall pick in this years draft. The pick was acquired via Chicago in the Andrew Ladd deal and gives the Jets two first round selections at this years draft. With the Jets winning the second overall pick, the need for the 22nd overall pick isn’t as high and could potentially be used as trade bait. Along with that, the Jets have a surplus of youngsters they could add to create a package for a defensemen.
Chase De Leo is someone the Jets could be willing to part with. De Leo was arguably the Manitoba Moose’s most consistent forward throughout last year and had an impressive first pro season despite playing on a dreadful team. The 5’9 centre might not have much of a chance to play for the Jets down the road. With Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry clogging up the centre spots for the next few years, De Leo might have trouble cracking the team’s roster. De Leo is an intriguing prospect but with the Jets depth they have down the middle, parting with De Leo could make sense.
Someone like Joel Armia could be bundled up with assets and shipped off for a left handed defenseman as well. The Finnish native took steps in the right direction this past season after a bumpy start in the AHL. Armia has all the tools to be a really talented player. His upside is undeniable with his big body and sharp wrist shot. But along with De Leo, looking at the long term, Armia does not stick out as someone that the Jets must hold on to and wouldn’t consider trading.
Marko Dano hasn’t been a Winnipeg Jets for too long. Despite that, I think you’d have to consider him in this category as well. Next year there’s a good possibility Dano will not even crack the Jets opening night roster. Dano finished off the year strong with 3 points in his last 4 games and didn’t look out of place after being thrusted in to NHL action. While Dano was a coveted addition in the Andrew Ladd deal, departing with him wouldn’t be the end of the world whatsoever. Dano likely will have to either face limited fourth line minutes next year or top minutes in the AHL anyways and he could bring value to another team.
Those three youngsters are some of the handful of prospects the Jets could dangle in a trade. Nic Petan could be in contention as well. But with coach Paul Maurice seemingly very high on him, I think they’ll want to take the wait and see approach especially with the lasting impression he left at the end of the year and the growth he had from the beginning of the year to the end of the season.
Lets spitball here for a little bit. What about Jacob Trouba? Could he be in play? Trouba’s name has been brought up a lot in trade talks. The Jets are financially committed to Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien on the right side for the long term and with Trouba a restricted free agent, questions loom of whether the Jets want to commit large capital to a third right shot defenseman. Could Trouba reach his full potential by playing on his opposite side for the next five or so years? The possibility of trading Trouba straight up ( or with extra assets thrown in ) is an intriguing one.
Who Should The Jets Target?
A left handed defenseman that everyone is trying to get a hold of is Ducks defenseman, Sami Vatanen. Vatanen is an offensive defenseman that’s skill and craftiness would be very valuable on the Jets blue line. The 24 year old can run a power play and is a great puck mover on the man advantage and at even strength. His offensive instincts are admirable and he’s got the upside to become a consistent 50 point player. Vatanen isn’t a shutdown defenseman that can log the tough minutes and take the other team’s best player, but the Jets aren’t looking for that. They have those types of players in Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba.
Vatanen is a restricted free agent this summer and there are a handful of teams trying to get a hold of him. An offer sheet is entirely possible to be made to Vatanen. All 29 general manager’s know the Ducks are trying to shed off Cam Fowler or Vatanen from there salary cap, odds are it’ll be Vatanen on his way out. The Jets likely wouldn’t present the most desirable destination for an offer sheet to Vatanen. That’s why trading for his rights could be the smartest play.
On the trade market there isn’t really any other left handed defenseman with the ceiling of Vatanen. It’ll be hard for the Jets to compete with other more attractive markets for the services of top Dmen, so trading will likely be the sole way they can update their left side on the blue line.
It might not even be Vatanen that the Jets desire. But whomever it is, they’ll have lots to offer and work with to try to get a deal done.