As July 1 approaches, Jets fans have spent countless hours debating who should be traded in order to free up cap space. With the likes of Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck, and Adam Lowry needing significant pay raises this year, plus Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor due the year after that, things begin looking tight for Jets monetarily. Complicating things further is Chris Johnston of Sportsnet 960 reporting that it sounds like UFA Paul Stastny is going to stay in Winnipeg. Here I will make the case as to who they should keep and who they should trade in order to make the money work.
KEEP: Mathieu Perreault
Perreault seems to be the Jets most popular trade bait candidate. TSN has him ranked 19th on their Trade Bait board. Moreover, Jets fans tend to look at him as an injury prone winger on a team loaded with them. While the Jets certainly have an arsenal of talented wingers, only Blake Wheeler has the ability to drive play the way Perreault can. Laine, Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers are extremely talented, but they’re far from amazing in terms of puck retrieval. This is where Perreault excels. Whether it’s keeping the puck in on dman pinches or his incredible reads and angles on the forecheck, Perreault almost always finds a way to make sure the Jets retain the puck.
Last season he made a top 10 finish in unblocked shot generation/suppression. He was also the Jets third best skater in even strength xGF%, and the second best skater in CF% (minimum 500 minutes played). Simply put, when Perreault is on the ice, the Jets dominate the shot share and scoring chances.
The injuries can be frustrating, but Perreault is underpaid even with them accounted for. Year in year out, he ranks very high in cost per win value. While I expect a gradual decline between now and 2021 when his contract expires, he would have to fall off a cliff to become a bad value at $4.125M. Additionally, 2021 is a realistic time to expect Connor and Laine to improve at driving play. The Jets are better off keeping Perreault until then.
The Jets are also almost guaranteed to lose any Perreault trade. This is due to his perceived value being astronomically lower than his actual value. The trade market will look at his counting stats (39 points) and ignore the little things that make him so special. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will undoubtedly need to shed some salary this summer, but doing so with a bargain contract that won’t fetch a fair return on the trade market is the wrong move.
KEEP: Jacob Trouba
Like Perreault, Trouba’s name is on TSN’s Trade Bait board at number 21. While I’m all for finding a way to bring Stastny back, getting rid of Trouba to do so (as has been suggested by some) is preposterous. Fans should keep in mind that Stastny is an aging stop gap 2C, while Trouba is the Jets number one defenseman of both the present and future. Age and role considerations heavily favor Trouba.
Some doubt his willingness to stay in Winnipeg, but it’s time to kick that suspicion to the curb. He has informed his agent that he’s willing to sign with the Jets long term. When asked if anything had changed since his trade request, Trouba responded with “I get to play with Josh (Morrissey)!” While this reply was in jest fundamentally, there’s no reason to doubt that there’s a great deal of truth behind it. Trouba went from playing with Mark Stuart and less than Tyler Myers, to playing on the first pair with a great defenseman on a championship contending team. He got what he wanted and some.
There should also be no concerns over his play at this point, though one recurring belief is that he doesn’t score enough to be paid like a number one dman. This is an easy conclusion to come to if you ignore his lack of power play time. Trouba actually lead Jets blue liners in even strength points per minute last season. He can score, he just hasn’t been put in the best position to do so. Fortunately, this only helps the Jets during contract negotiations where points play a major role in determining price.
KEEP: Nic Petan
Jets Nation readers shouldn’t be too surprised to see his name here, as we have long been Nic Petan truthers. This is because when he’s not centering a line with inadequate wingers, Petan can be a very effective hockey player. Away from the likes of Chris Thorburn, Petan has impressive NHL numbers. Garret Hohl did a piece with us a while back detailing Petan’s wrongful usage that I highly recommend reading.
Petan’s inclusion as a player to keep isn’t quite the same as Perreault or Trouba. He isn’t going to be expensive and the Jets can afford to lose him. The main gripe with Petan as a trade piece is that because of his wrongful usage, his value has been completely deflated. “We’ve got this guy with 21 NHL points, give us something good” is a tough sell. If the Jets ever want to get fair value for him, he needs to be put in the proper role.
If he ever gets a chance to play with top-nine talent long term, he will thrive. This needs to happen in Winnipeg before it happens anywhere else. I’d hate to see him go for nothing and watch him turn into the next Golden Knights-esque player that was undervalued by his team and wound up succeeding as soon as they let him loose.
TRADE: Joel Armia
This one goes hand in hand with keeping Petan. The money isn’t drastic, but if you want to save an easy $1M, Petan can play in place of Armia and do an even better job. As fellow JN writer @Tony_MBHKY and I discussed recently on Twitter, Armia actually scored at a lower rate when he was Petan’s age; ironic considering the main knock on Petan is his inability to produce points.
Armia is a perfectly fine fourth line depth player, but he is due for a pay raise. As small as it may be, the Jets have some penny pinching to do, and Armia’s 29 points will warrant around $1M more than the $925,000 he earned last season. It doesn’t even have to be Petan. Armia is easily replaceable, so why not save a buck where you can?
TRADE: Tyler Myers
While Myers is only set to earn $3M next year, he comes with a cap hit of $5.5M. That tag is far too high for someone going into the season as a third pairing dman. There are talks of him potentially playing on the left side this year, which could open up flexibility and more ice time for him. However, this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Myers struggles enough in his own end playing on his natural side. While he can rack up points at a fairly high clip, his unforced turnovers have become an absolute detriment. I personally don’t think I could handle watching another season of him trying to make an outlet pass or failing to clear the puck.
Luckily, his 36 points have probably inflated his trade value. Cheveldayoff was down a first rounder this season and will be missing a third rounder next year. He could easily regain some draft capital by dealing Myers. Doing so simultaneously rids him of a disposable player’s hefty cap hit.
Conveniently, the Jets have Tucker Poolman and Sami Niku waiting in the wings. Niku was named AHL defenseman of the year last season as a rookie. He’s the second freshman blue liner in AHL history to do so. Also worth noting is that Niku has played four years of professional hockey, dating back to 2014 when he debuted in SM-liiga. He’ll be 22 with four years of pro hockey under his belt. It would be shocking if he wasn’t ready for the bigs next season.
Poolman already has 300 minutes of NHL ice time where he looked more than capable of handling bottom pair duties. Him and Niku would be cost effective ways of replacing Myers and Tobias Enstrom.
TRADE: Steve Mason
This signing has gotten a lot of flak, though it’s not entirely deserving of it. The Jets needed to address goaltending last off-season due to the uncertainty of Hellebuyck’s play. The signing only looks awful in retrospect because Mason was hurt every other month and Hellebuyck ended up being a Vezina Trophy finalist. Bad contract today, but it made a lot of sense at the time. Looking back, Jets fans should actually consider themselves lucky that Mason only signed for two years last summer. Most goalies of his caliber had been signing for three.
All things considered, Hellebuyck has obviously proven that he doesn’t need a security blanket playing behind him in case he falters. This renders Mason and his services virtually useless. Cheveldayoff is reportedly shopping him, though I’m not sure how many biters he can get unless he agrees to retain some of Mason’s $4.1M salary or package him with another asset. Here’s hoping he finds a way. Mason can still be a serviceable goaltender, but him and his cap hit are totally unnecessary for the Jets at this point. They can save money finding a backup elsewhere, even with some of Mason’s salary retention. Michael Hutchinson, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond, Anton Khudobin, hell even Ondrej Pavelec come to mind as cheap, viable backup options.
There are several other players I’d consider moving, though they’re barely within the realm of possibility:
- Dmitry Kulikov is a fine third pairing defenseman, but his $4.33M price tag is very steep. Adding insult to injury is that he’s coming off of back surgery, re-aggravating an injury that kept him sidelined two seasons ago. This contract is probably impossible to move unless there’s major salary retention involved. Either that or some wizardry.
- Bryan Little is pricey and on the decline, but expecting him to waive his no move clause isn’t exactly realistic.
No one said this off-season was going to be easy for Chevy. It’s going to be a busy summer and these next few days could get real interesting. Unfortunately, I can see Perreault being dealt if and when a Stastny signing comes to fruition.
I’m getting quite anxious to watch how it all unfolds.
Stats courtesy of corsica.hockey.
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