The Jets are floundering. They have not improved over their 2016-17 form as was expected in the off season. The Jets sit 5th in the Central Division, with a record of 22-23-4. Last season, 2015-16, the Jets finished had a record of 35-39-8 and that was good for 78 points. If the Jets do not finish higher, management will have failed providing the fans of Winnipeg a successful NHL team.
So, the question is, do the Jets need a shake up on the roster? They lost Andrew Ladd last year at the trade deadline and have replaced his point totals by committee, but this has not been enough to improve on the 2015-16 season.
Is a significant roster move something the Jets should consider?
Currently, the Jets sit with four potential unrestricted free agents (Drew Stafford, Chris Thorburn, Paul Postma and Ondrej Pavelec) and five restricted free agents (Marko Dano, Brandon Tanev, Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot and Connor Hellebuyck) on their roster. So, as it stands the Jets are most likely going to keep relatively the same roster coming into the 2017-18 season.
This is an issue because the current play of the Jets does not give confidence in the idea that they will improve next season.
Right now the biggest need is an improvement on defence and their systems. I have advocated that the Jets should trade for a defenceman like Martin Marincin, but they may need to do something more on the back end.
Jacob Trouba trade rumours are currently at an all time low, for the moment. He has a very tradeable contract and could easily slot in on another team’s top-four, if not top-two. However, he should not be swapped for a rental player like Kevin Shattenkirk unless the deal involves a contract extension.
That would be an unwise move by the Jets. If Trouba were to be moved at the trade deadline, a player like Chris Tanev should be coming the other way. In fact, Tanev could be a good fit with Enstrom as a shut down pair and would come with a team friendly cap hit of $4.45 million through the 2019-20 season.
As well, Travis Hamonic could easily fit the bill and was involved trade rumours with the Jets in the past. He is also signed through the 2019-20 season with a cap hit of $4.875 million.
The Jets also have a very weak group of NHL ready defensive prospects in their system, which could be an issue. Tucker Poolman and Luke Green are players that people could get excited about, but they are usually overshadowed by the towering Logan Stanley. If a trade were to involve a current Jets defenceman, the trade should not be for just prospects, but for another quality NHL defenceman.
The fact that Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom have no movement clauses complicates who can be moved by the Jets. Byfuglien and Enstrom would have to waive their clauses to facilitate a trade.
Would the Jets look at trading one of their prized forwards? They have centre depth, even more so in their prospect system. Would a blockbuster trade around Bryan Little be too risky to consider? Little is a number one centre and could land an attractive package of prospects, picks and/or NHL players for the Jets. A trade with Little as its centerpiece would be a major shake up for the Jets’ forwards, but there would be no certainty if the Jets would benefit long term.
The use of Little here is an example of a significant forward that could be traded.
Trading a significant player from the forward group would be too dangerous for the Jets, if they want to prove to their plans that their plan includes a significant step forward next season. Players like Bryan Little are not easily traded for, they are drafted. Even though the Jets do have some up and coming forward prospects, trading a player like Little could be detrimental to management’s plan.
The Jets could move their draft picks to make an addition to the roster. They have all of their 2017 draft picks and a 7th round pick in 2017 from Montreal. As well, the Jets have dynamic forwards playing in the AHL who are close to being NHL impact players. These pieces may be attractive to a team willing to make a trade.
So, the Jets could make a trade for a significant upgrade on the back end, whether that’s through a swap with a current defender, through trading a forward or using draft picks and prospects.
However, if the Jets were to make a significant trade in season there is a slight problem. They will have to deal with the expansion draft and risk losing a potentially significant player. As it stands, Scheifele, Wheeler, Little, Perreault, Matthias, Lowry, Armia, Myers, Trouba, Stuart, Byfuglien, Enstrom, Hutchinson and Hellebuyck are all eligible for the expansion draft.
The number of players allowed to be protected are 7 forwards, 3 defenders and 1 goalie or a mixture of 8 forwards/defenders and 1 goalie. No movement clauses have to be honoured, so Byfuglien and Enstrom take up two protection slots. Depending on which protection route management follows, the Jets will be able to protect 1 more defenceman or 6 more skaters.
If the Jets were to add a big name player at the deadline to shake things up, chances are they will lose one of their better secondary pieces to the expansion draft.
If the Jets were playing better or more consistently, a move at the trade deadline would make sense to load up for the playoffs or to shake things up. However, the Jets are floundering and currently sit 23rd in the league for points and 5th in the Central Division.
The expansion draft will see the Jets lose a player, but all will not be lost. The Jets are loaded with young talent that can fill the role of the player lost. Core players like Wheeler, Little and Byfuglien are in the prime of their careers. On top of that the Jets have a multitude of youngsters on the upswing in their careers such as Scheifele, Trouba, Ehlers and Laine.
A roster shake up could change the status quo of the Jets going into the 2017-18 season. However, the young players on the Jets will see increased roles as they gain more experience and translate their talent to the NHL. As a result, the Jets should play better and see a vast improvement next season.
Moving players for movement’s sake is not the best course of action for the Jets. Management should not make a move just to show fans that they are visibly doing something. If the roster was not staying relatively the same going into the 2017-18 season, there could be a greater discussion of who the Jets should move at the trade deadline.
If any major roster move is to be made, the Jets should make such a move after the expansion draft. The biggest need for the Jets is better defensive depth, the only option to add a quality blueliner may be through a trade or opening up the pocket books to sign a free agent defender.
Management would be prudent to fill any other holes through free agency or the farm system and not through trades. As well, the Jets may need to look into other ways to make an improvement, like a systems change or even a coaching change.
Do the Jets need to make a trade for the sake of change? Probably not. Do they need to make another kind of change for improvement? Probably.