On February 26, 2018 – Trade Deadline Day – Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets did something unlike anything they had done before in the previous five seasons in Winnipeg: They traded away a first round pick for a player in return.
The haul back of course was Paul Stastny who helped propel the Jets into a Western Conference Finals appearance, but it was a bold move from a GM who wasn’t really known for making them and now for the first time since their return to Winnipeg, the Jets do not own a pick in the first round (it would have been the 29th pick had they kept it) and as it stands right now will not make a pick until number 60 comes up on Saturday, June 23.
Should Chevy do something to change that, or does it matter at this point?
The Jets have traded a first round pick in the past – last year’s draft in fact, in a deal where they traded down in the first round with the Golden Knights to help the Knights gain a handful of spots (from 24th to 13th overall) but also have Vegas agree to pick pending unrestricted free agent Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft that took place a week earlier.
But this will be the first time in eight drafts that this team will not be making a pick in the first round.
Winnipeg’s Cupboards Starting To Get Bare
The Jets for the last few years have been the envy of the league with one of the best groups of prospects in their system, but it’s starting to thin out a bit again as players are graduating to the pro level.
Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry, Tucker Poolman, Connor Hellebuyck, Josh Morrissey, Andrew Copp, Nic Ehlers – All players them drafted within the first five years after the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg – are pretty much mainstays on the roster.
Jack Roslovic, Michael Spacek, Mason Appleton and Sami Niku – all 2015 draft picks cold be on the verge of making a breakthrough as well.
Once you look past 2015’s crop of prospects, questions start arising. Sure the top end talent is there. 2016’s “other” first round pick Logan Stanley is unquestionably still what you should consider a “project” and will not be ready for NHL hockey for maybe another year or two at best. Kristian Vesalainen is an exciting prospect but we have yet to see if he can handle the adjustment to North American pro hockey as well as fellow countryman Patrik Laine did.
This is all to say that while the situation isn’t critical by any stretch – consider a lot of the young talent on the Jets right now are still under the age of 25 and haven’t even been considered to hit their prime years yet – it also wouldn’t hurt to replenish the stock so to speak.
The Athletic’s Murat Ates as always has a fantastic breakdown of the whole prospect picture and is a great read. (And if you haven’t subscribed to the Athletic, it’s well worth it)
For the evening crowd: The Jets have drafted so well that their pipeline of ELCs – and thus cheap, cap-efficient talent – is beginning to slow down.
Winnipeg's young stars are going to get paid, making the next wave of youth so important as a result.https://t.co/9gMdCuxvrl
— Murat (@WPGMurat) June 15, 2018
But what would the cost be? And would it be worth it?
The NHL trade market is always a bit unpredictable, but at this point one would have to imagine the cost of moving up without sacrificing other picks in the draft this year or in future years would be a player off the current roster and likely a mid-range prospect like a Michael Spacek, Nic Petan or even Eric Comrie.
And in some ways that might be beneficial to the Jets. Their upcoming concerns with the salary cap and expiring ELC deals for Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor along with much needed raises for Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck are already well noted.
This may in fact be the ideal time to shuffle along an older player with a sizeable contract that can still be considered decent values to other teams – Tyler Myers, Dmitri Kulikov and Mathieu Perreault may be on the top of that list – along with one of those aforementioned prospects to move up into the middle of the first round.
If the Jets have their sights set on a player like Ryan Merkley or Jett Woo for defense, or someone like Joel Farabee at forward, they would need to consider such a move.
Moving Up In The Second Instead
The Jets could also look into swapping places in the second round which wouldn’t involve a hefty price as trading into the first round would. Maybe at most you have to throw in a fifth round pick this year – remember as well the Jets don’t own a fourth round pick either thanks to that same Paul Stastny trade but do have an extra fifth from Boston.
Quite a bit of talent can pass by between picks one through to 59 and while not a particularly deep draft, there are some that have suggested that especially on defense, that there may be some worthwhile, potentially top pairing talent to be selected even past big names of Rasmus Dahlin and Quinton Hughes.
For the right deal – one that doesn’t take away too much from what they currently have for a roster – they may be able to sneak back into the first round so that future Jets rosters can have a steady supply of good, young talent.
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