JN AirMail: We’ve Got Depth Of Perception In Our Text, Y’all

This week for JN AirMail, we got questions about the Winnipeg Jets and their depth, which as admittedly been a big focus for so many people as we pretty much know what to expect from the top forwards and defensemen.

Answering your questions this week are Cody BuhlerKyle Buhler, Tony D, 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.

@TheHeronMark asks: If Niku (or another prospect) is looking NHL ready at some point during this season, is there a chance Kulikov gets flipped within the year?

Cody B: Based on the price and length of Kukikov’s contract I think the Jets are intending to keep him for a while. I would be surprised to see him gone that early. I think that if Niku or Poolman were clearly NHL ready it would be more likely that they don’t resign Enstrom. But this all hinges on how Kulikov, Enstrom and the prospects play.

Tony:  No way Kulikov is flipped. If Jets flip a D-Man, it will be Enstrom. Last year of his contract and at 32 years old, his best days are behind him.

Kyle B: I agree with Cody and Tony, Kulikov will most likely stay over Enstrom, and his contract isn’t very friendly, so good luck trying to deal him. I would not want the left side to have a rookie (Niku), a second year player (Morrissey), and a declining Enstrom.

@theclaymax asks: Potential LD targets? Is 2018 1st in play at the deadline if in a playoff spot/race? How short will the leash be with the goalies?

Cody B: This seems like three different questions rolled into one. 1st I think that after signing Kulikov and with the prospects they have the Jets aren’t really in the market right now for a LHD. 2nd I doubt they would trade their 2018 first round pick. The Jets have been so good with those picks, and even if they are a bubble team they are more likely to add pieces that don’t cost a first round pick. I think when they are cup contenders and not just playoff contenders you might see a first rounder get moved. 3rd I think both goalies will play a fair amount and will split the net on a set schedule for quite a while before the Jets clearly use one more than the other.

WPGChief:  1. None anymore, at least for the 17/18 season. In the future, however, if Enstrom decides to not return, Kulikov is actually not good and does not rebound from his career-low season, and Chiarot remains Chiarot, Summer 2018 has a lot of LD going into UFA. A quick list of names, in no particular order (ages in brackets): Jason Garrison (32), Jack Johnson (30), Thomas Hickey (32), Brandon Manning (27), Michal Kempny (26), Mark Barberio (27), Justin Falk (28), and more. This, of course, is also barring that Sami Niku does not make the jump from the AHL to NHL for the 18/19 season. Anything can change in the course of a season, however – let’s revisit this in a year’s time.

2. Even in a draft such as the past one, where nearly every scout lauded it as one of the weakest ever, many GMs kept ahold of their 1st’s anyway, only seeing a shuffle come around once the Vegas Golden Knights made a flurry of trades. In fact, for last year’s trade deadline, only two teams acquired 1st’s in trades: Arizona Coyotes (for Martin Hanzal) and St. Louis Blues (for Kevin Shattenkirk and Phoenix Copley). Lots of teams improved through the trading of prospects or a combination of draft picks in later rounds and years. Add in the hope that if the Jets are in a playoff spot/race this year, they should be doing so the season after as well, so the 2018 1st should likely be kept (in a draft full of top LD prospects, I should add).

3. If we are to follow any of Paul Maurice’s past tendencies in the 16/17 season, the leash is pretty much nonexistent or takes a form unrecognizable to the human mind, as he opted to flip between Hutchinson and Hellebuyck for the beginning of the season, before riding Hellebuyck for nearly 20 straight starts after Pavelec’s return and injury. Should Maurice actually want to win with his goalies, there should be a set schedule for Steve Mason to be the #1 and receive the majority of the starts, with Hellebuyck taking easier matchups and backups. Don’t mess with the goalies heads – let them play.

Tony: Honestly, Jets need to deal with the Trouba contract first. If you can sign him long term great, if you can’t your real problem could be on the right side of your defense in the next 2 years. I am also high on Niku has a top 4 d-man by the 2018-19 season. As far as goalies go, Mason should get the majority share of starts at the beginning of the season. The first 50 games should be at minimum a 30/20 split for Mason. If Mason’s numbers are good, keep rolling that way. If his play is subpar, make a move to Helle then. But you have to give Mason a fair chance to be the main guy.

Kyle B: Stop looking for left D, we finally have enough. Are they good though? Well we will have to wait and see. There is no way the Jets trade their first pick away. The Jets should be on the bubble but are not in the position to mortgage the future for one season. We see how well that worked a few seasons ago. As for the goalies, I think we will see a similar style for the goalies as last year. If a guy gets hot he will get a few starts, but it could easily go back and forth every game or too.

@YuriGelfat asks: What to expect from Joel Armia next season? Has he reached his potential? Can possibly crack top 6 role? Will he solidify his top 9 position?

Cody B: I think we can expect more of the same from Joel Armia. He has been an excellent player for the Jets at times, and at other times not so much. I would like to see a balanced top 9 with him getting an opportunity with some more skilled players to see what he can do. Potential is there for him to have more offence. With the elite ability and potential skill already in the Jets organization (Laine, Schiefele, Ehlers, Wheeler, Little, Connor) I don’t see Armia ascending into the top 6.

WPGChief: Armia certainly has shown flashes of brilliance, most notably on the penalty kill and likely being the better skill player in comparison to Adam Lowry and Shawn Matthias. When we compare some of his numbers to typical 3rd line wingers, however, there is still more to be desired from a player given that amount of time on ice. So, while it is probably unexpected that he will crack the top 6 anytime in the near future, he still should develop into a decent 3rd line or very good 4th line winger (if Maurice ever gives the 4th line more than 9 minutes a game). After this season, we will likely have enough of an idea of how good Armia could be.

Tony:  At 24 years old Armia is very close to a finished product. As it stands he could be an elite 4th line winger with really good penalty killing skills with is very valuable to have. I do think there might be a little more offense to his game but not enough to play in a scoring role.

Kyle B: I would have really liked to see Armia move up last year when Laine was hurt instead of Andew Copp. Copp looked really good with Wheeler and Scheifele, and I think we would have seen a different version of Armia as well. I think the ceiling is a good 3rd line winger, that is responsible and actually kill penalties. He should not be in the top six but is a valuable depth option going forward.

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