Following a disappointing end to the 2020 playoffs, the Winnipeg Jets will likely be looking to make some major changes to its roster this offseason and a few of those moves could involve trading two former first-round selections.
According to Frank Seravalli of TSN, the Jets could potentially trade Patrik Laine and possibly Nikolaj Ehlers for some help on their blueline, as they continue to search for a top-two defenseman.
TRADE BAIT: Patrik Laine makes the first Trade Bait board of the fall as the Jets explore avenues to fill holes on their blueline and down the middle, @frank_seravalli
writes: https://t.co/Jdf8sL1DOY pic.twitter.com/b5ozthi5X6
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) September 1, 2020
Now before Jets Nation freaks out, remember, this isn’t the first time either of these two players have been rumored to be on the trading block before. Over the last two seasons, most experts have had both forwards on their trading boards and they still haven’t been traded. For now anyway.
Adding to that, every offseason is always full of trade rumors that are mostly false and this fall probably won’t be any different. With that said, moving Laine or Ehlers for an elite defenseman would make a ton of sense for the Jets and there’s certainly a chance one of them if not both could be moved before the start of next season.
Despite Laine’s attitude issues, the 22-year-old is still considered one of the elite players in the league, as he scored at least 30 goals in each of his first three seasons and would’ve eclipsed that mark for a fourth-straight season if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Finland native would’ve likely surpassed 70 points once again if the regular season continued, as he was averaging a career-high in points per game (0.93) before the stoppage.
Based on his impressive first four seasons in the league, the right-handed winger would certainly earn a larger return for the Jets compared to what other teams would offer for Ehlers. But with the 6-foot-5 forward only signed through the 2020/21 campaign along with the salary cap lowering over the next few seasons, his market could be limited to just a handful of teams.
As for Ehlers, the 24-year-old is signed through the 2024/25 season and he would be easier to replace if the Jets were to trade him. Considering the left-hander has been able to score at least 25 goals in three of his last four seasons, there’s a very good chance he could net a quality defenseman in return, which likely makes this a more desirable trade option for Winnipeg.
With Dmitry Kulikov, Nathan Beaulieu, Dylan Demelo, and Luca Sbisa all set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason, the Jets are expected to have plenty of turnover on their already thin blueline. While they’re expected to have just over $15.5 million in cap space, according to Sportrac.com, making improvements through free agency won’t be an easy task regardless of how much financial flexibility they own.
Regardless of how this offseason plays out, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff certainly has his work cut out for him and his staff as they look to make several upgrades over the next few months. If both Laine and Ehlers are somehow still on the roster at the start of next season, there’s a chance the Jets’ blueline could endure similar issues for the second consecutive season.