The 2017-18 season showed Jets fans what the Jets roster can do. For the second time since moving back to Winnipeg, the Jets made the playoffs and made a run all the way to the Western Conference finals. There is no reason to think they cannot do the same again.
Therefore, the Jets should endeavour to keep Blake Wheeler this season and not trade him.
The Jets still have a young core and could use Wheeler’s leadership in the locker room as they look to take an even greater step in the 2018-19 season. There is no reason to think that the Jets cannot make the Stanley Cup Finals with this roster and having Wheeler will provide them with a major advantage on the ice and off the ice.
To stay competitive in the NHL, teams run the risk of losing players for nothing. The Jets are in one of these positions, but that is okay. The goal is to win a Stanley Cup and not to always to trade players away before they lose value. The Jets are in a position where their Stanley Cup window is wide open with their young core and can risk losing Wheeler for nothing, especially if it means winning the Stanley Cup.
Having Wheeler around keeps pressure off of young wingers like Kyle Connor, Nik Ehlers and Patrick Laine to perform. As well, it allows Wheeler to show by example how to add multiple dimensions to their games.
One of the best aspects of Wheeler’s game is he can hurt opposing teams offensively because he can attack them in multiple ways. He is an amazing playmaker, but also a great goal scorer. Wheeler can use his size to take the puck to the net, but also to draw players in to him and make a nice pass to setup a teammate for a goal.
The diagrams from HockeyViz show just how important Wheeler is to the Jets’ offence. He is a master at helping the Jets produce shots around the net. Wheeler scored 90 points this past season and that was good enough to place him in the top 10 for scoring.
Wheeler’s production and high danger shot production will most likely not be replaced by a player in a trade involving Wheeler.
As a team is transitioning into a younger core, while remaining very competitive, having Wheeler teach these young guns how to play and how to lead is invaluable for the Jets.
Looking to the future, the Jets can keep Wheeler, if they follow the model of teams that have won Stanley Cups in the past few years.
The Jets have good young players that have yet to make the NHL who could fill depth roles on their roster while providing some offence. This is the model the Penguins and Blackhawks took: signing good players to long-term contracts , using their farm system to produce role players on entry-level contracts and trading away those young players when they became too expensive to keep as role players.
This allowed for the winning of multiple Stanley Cups for both teams and getting some assets to replenish their farm system.
The Jets have the pieces in their farm to follow this model with the likes of Sami Niku, Kristian Veiselainen, Nic Petan, Mason Appleton, Michael Spacek, Luke Green and more.
Keeping Wheeler will only benefit the Jets now for the future, despite the risks involved.
There’s greater reward in keeping Wheeler. A shot at the Stanley Cup is worth the risks involved with keeping their Captain. There’s also less risk of bad publicity if the Jets do not trade their Captain again.
Most of the teams who have won the Cup. or been very competitive in the playoffs. have been able to keep their best players and supplementing them with cheaper contracts. Cheveldayoff has his work cut out for him, but the Jets can figure out their cap situation, keep their Captain, stay competitive and continue to have the strong leadership of Wheeler on and off the ice.