JN AirMail: What To Do About The Kids

This week for JN AirMail, we’re all about the future and how we’d handle it. It’s no secret the Jets have a lot of good young prospects, but with that comes the issue on how to fit them all into a main roster, or if they’ll even make that roster at all.

Answering your questions this week are Cody Buhler, Rob Mahon, Cassie Moiser and WPG Chief. Be sure to give them your follows on Twitter!

And as always, if you have a Jets or hockey related question in general burning away in your head, be sure to @ reply our Twitter account with the hashtag #JNAirMail and we’ll get to answering it next week.

The JetsNation Podcasts asks: At what point do we have to move a young, skilled player? No room for all of Petan, Dano, Connor, Copp, Roslovic, Lemieux.

Cody B: The easy answer would be as soon as their growth as a player gets stunted. If the Jets feel there will be no room for them on the roster in the near-ish future, and playing in the AHL is not helping them grow, they then need to be dealt.

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Rob M: I believe Connor is untouchable at the moment. As for Petan and Lemieux, it makes no sense to move either of them right now as their value is too low. Petan is coming off a season where he was badly misused, and Lemieux had a tough first pro season book-ended by injuries. You want to move them when their value is high enough to fetch a decent return but at the same time when they’ve reached a point where they can’t crack the top six on your team and bottom six or AHL minutes aren’t helping them. It’s a delicate balance.

Cassie M: The easy answer for me is as soon as the growth isn’t there anymore, or if something better is available in trade. If a team dangles something better for defence than what we have currently and it takes moving one of the young guys out to make it happen, that deal needs to be made. Connor is untouchable, but the others could sweeten a deal that could help the team now.

WPGChief: Easiest answer? When the team gets a tolerable return or help in future cap space. But of course, the problem with this and always will be management and fans’ overestimation of their prospects values. Why would we move any of those names – we’ve seen them play, they have potential and have looked good, they’ll for sure be super studs in the not distant future? Those scrubs from the other teams – hah, they’ll probably never make the NHL roster, or they cost wait too much in comparison to our obviously very good players!

With that rhetoric out of the way, it is hard in this day and age to get a fair or equal trade, what-have-you, especially when General Managers get extraordinarily vindictive (see: Peter Chiarelli and the mention of “offer sheets”). If you trade a player like those listed above for a draft pick or another team’s prospect and it turns out they turn into a great player, good luck making that sort of trade again, not just with that GM but any GMs who are now trying to do the same thing. Or, whoever you made that trade with got fired for making such an obviously dumb trade (hindsight is 20/20 eh).

Anyways, to sort of get back to your question, I see the Jets approaching a trade with any of those names of trying to get a return of futures (i.e. draft picks). Currently, they only have one extra pick from Boston in the 5th round (Drew Stafford trade) in 2018 and are missing their 3rd in 2019. Getting more draft picks always allows the organization to have flexibility throughout the season and especially on Draft Day, whether that may be trading up to select a player they really want (i.e. Logan Stanley) or trading those picks to “bulk” up for a playoff run in the future (i.e. Jiri Tlusty). Either way, GMs always worry that these kind of decisions will bite them in the ass (see: Michael Latta and Martin Erat for Filip Forsberg, or the updated model of that trade: Alex Burrows for Jonathan Dahlen), which is why they are rarely made unless both sides are totally sure that the players or prospects involved will never reach the NHL level.

Yuri Jelfat asks: Assuming Lowry will see increased role and keep 3C spot, who is the best fit and who do you think will play 4C position? Copp/Petan/Roslovic/FA

Rob M: Right now I think Copp best fits into that 4C spot. Petan is at his best on the wing for now as his faceoffs and defensive play both need work. And as a puck mover/distributor, Petan needs someone with him who can play the game at the same speed he can think it, so fourth line minutes aren’t optimal for him as the Jets learned (or should have) last year. Ditto for Roslovic, who’s still at the point where AHL games won’t hinder his development if he returns to the Moose for one more year. Hopefully the Jets stay healthy and their depth shines through meaning they can ice four solid lines. As of now, if Lowry is indeed the 3C (which he likely starts the year as but may not finish it as) then Copp is 4C in my mind unless somebody absolutely blows the doors off in the preseason.  

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WPGChief: Amidst opinions from TSN’s Darren Dreger that the Jets were still looking in the market for a forward (preferably centre), it can be further stretched that if this indeed were true, Lowry likely would have shifted to a 4C position. On July 1st, however, big names that would have been valuable additions in the middle six and can shift up in situations of injury were already gone: Hanzal, Gagner, Boyle, Bonino and Thornton to name a few. If we were to then follow the trends of the previous season, it seems to be more than likely that Lowry will indeed keep the 3C spot in Maurice’s infamous matchup line.

What is more interesting is seeing what happens on the fourth line, not just for the 4C but also for the linemates. With Thorburn being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft and subsequently signing with the St. Louis Blues for two years, the Jets have few “grit” players remaining, namely Brandon Tanev and possibly Brendan Lemieux should he move from the AHL to the NHL next season. Marko Dano, when not dealing with long-term injuries or being in the press box, has shown decent numbers in the middle six and has been just okay on the bottom line. Andrew Copp has been serviceable as a 4C for the past, with faceoff percentages of 46% of nearly 500 faceoffs in 15/16 but 49% of nearly 200 in 16/17, and has seen more success on the wing. Nic Petan seemingly has not locked down any spot on the roster for the past few seasons and is perhaps not trusted by Paul Maurice and his coaching staff, though his numbers have shown greater success when he is without possible linemates Thorburn and Tanev. Roslovic could be the wildcard come training camp: he led the Manitoba Moose in points with 48 in 65 games, and was a part of the USA Hockey World Juniour’s gold medal winning roster. Should his development continue, he could see a promotion from the AHL team to the Jets’ NHL roster.

Ideally, following the trends of other NHL teams and what has shown the most success for winning hockey games, the Jets will put together four lines with high scoring potential, creating hard matchups for the other team. This would likely include the addition of Kyle Connor to the lineup, but may not mesh well with the playstyle of Lowry on the third line, but could benefit playing on Bryan Little’s wing. This pushes more talent down the roster to the third line (for the sake of this argument, let us say it will be Mathieu Perreault), of which Maurice may have to make a difficult decision in breaking up Matthias/Lowry/Armia in some fashion.

But of course, that is another matter entirely, and we are going a bit too far down the rabbit hole here. To get back to your original question, assuming Lowry is a lock as a 3C and playing off of Maurice’s trends of the previous season, I would not be surprised to see Roslovic make the jump next season as a possible 4C, shifting Copp to a wing and beating out Petan in terms of his physical play and trust from the coaching staff. Roslovic getting NHL experience in a slightly sheltered environment with experienced scoring wingers (Copp and Dano) would also likely be ideal for his development, and can likely bring a scoring touch to the fourth line that the Jets’ have not used in a long while.

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[Man that was long and slightly rushed to a lot of conclusions. TL;DR – y’know what, give it to Roslovic if Maurice still hates on Petan.]

Cody B: I think the Jets should run 3 scoring lines this year with the Lowry line as a 4th shutdown unit that gets more minutes than the 4th line did last year. The Jets could add a C like mentioned above to play 3C or promote Roslovic.

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But the question states that if Lowry is the 3C then what happens at 4C. (This is probably the most likely scenario anyway.) I think that if Roslovic makes the lineup he needs to be in the top 9. Therefore staying in the AHL for one more season would be good. He would be my first call up in case of injury. I think Petan needs to be moved to the wing in the top 9, which means Copp would be my 4C. IMO he doesn’t have much more potential than a 4C so that would be a perfect spot for him with Matthias and Dano/Lemieux/Armia. (Connor and Petan will hopefully be in the top 9)

Mennoknight437 asks: Is the Moose roster looking better this year?

Rob M: I expect the Moose to be better this year thanks to the Jets finally supplementing their young guns with some decent AHL veterans like Buddy Robinson, Cameron Schilling and Michael Sgarbossa. Of course the Jets staying healthy and not raiding the Moose every other week would go a long way toward the farm club having a stronger year. The Moose have been a young team in both their first two seasons in Manitoba, but much like the Jets the youth hasn’t been the problem. Now they have some steadier vets, and that should help. They also have incoming talents like Jansen Harkins and Michael Spacek, who should help the depth up front. I expect Tucker Poolman to start on their back end as well, though he could surprise in training camp.

Cody B: I agree with Rob. With more talent coming, the Moose will hopefully be better. That also includes Niku on the back end.

Oceanknight asks: From bargain bin to the Gap, how’s the cap space looking?

Rob M: Good for now, though that’s going to change in a hurry after this year. Jacob Trouba is due for a contract extension and a huge raise. Think Mark Scheifele numbers. Morrissey is going to get a raise. Adam Lowry and Joel Armia will be getting raises of their own most likely. And Nikolaj Ehlers is going to hit pay dirt. Enstrom taking a pay cut will help, and the contracts of Pavelec and Stuart coming off the books won’t hurt, but what is Bryan Little going to sign for? That’s a wildcard in my mind, and there’s no way the Jets let him go. And Laine? Better start thinking big on that front, because in 2019 he’s going to get a very rich contract. All of this is to say nothing of Kyle Connor or Jack Roslovic. The Jets, if they want to keep the young talent they’ve so carefully assembled, are going to have to spend near the cap. They’ve got $7 million available right now, and my bet is that by summer’s end Trouba’s new extension will have taken up most of it (he’s getting 3.5 million next year).

Cody B: Rob has such great answers there is “Little” left to add. I think this is going to be an important year for the Jets. If they don’t make the playoffs something needs to happen either up stairs or behind the bench. They need to start spending to the cap soon in order to stay competitive. I think they will still be fine for a year or two.

Cassie M: The cap is looking ok this year but next year is going to get interesting with the RFAs all needing deals. With Laine lurking around the corner, the RFAs getting signed next year will set the stage for how much space there will be for him and that’s not counting what Trouba is going to get. We might see someone get moved to make it work, but not sure who at this point. That might become clearer as the season progresses.