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Who can replace Kyle Connor?
By Goose2 months ago
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I am not a doctor, but looking at the way Kyle Connor took the knee-on-knee hit from Ryan Strome in the game against the Anaheim Ducks on December 10th, it seems like the Winnipeg Jets’ top scorer could be out of action for a while.
Who could step in for the top scorer? Morgan Barron has been playing great hockey of late. Maybe it’s time for him to step up into the role of a garbage collector for Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers?
Personally, I don’t think that’s the case for Barron. He is a great bottom-sixer and might be good for the short term for the Jets’ top line. But if the injury lasts longer than a month, I don’t know if he can handle being thrown into the deep end for an extended period of time. So, who could be the savior for the Winnipeg Jets?
The Jets will need to find a shooter while waiting for Connor to return. They have one internal option, and there is an external option that I think could work for the team without costing an arm and a leg to acquire.
Starting with the internal option, the Jets should look at bringing up Nikita Chibrikov from the Manitoba Moose. The Russian-born player leads the Moose in goals with eight and points with 18 in 19 games. He is one of those special players who can play on either wing.
If you’ve watched Chibrikov play with the Moose this year, you’ve seen his hands and great skating. If you’re worried about the jump being too much for the 20-year-old, he did play in the KHL over three seasons. Although he would only manage four points over 51 games in Russia, he has stepped up in the AHL. He knows how to play against men, and that might be an advantage for Chibrikov over someone like Brad Lambert or Parker Ford.
We don’t need the expectation that Chibrikov is going to be the guy to save the Jets while KC is gone, but he could be a solid guy to rely on for a short stint.
Apparently, I think a Russian will solve the Jets’ forward issue. The Vancouver Canucks have begun fielding calls from other teams on Russian winger Andrei Kuzmenko, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday evening on Hockey Night in Canada.
Kuzmenko had a phenomenal season last year, scoring 39 goals and 74 points in 81 games with the Canucks. It should be noted he had an unreal shooting percentage of 27.3 percent in 2022-23; this year it has fallen to 10.5 percent.
The Jets need someone who can find the back of the net, and having both Ehlers and Scheifele as linemates might be the ticket to finding success more regularly for the 5’11 forward.
The bonus of Kuzmenko is he is 27 and going into his prime; he has seen elite competition in the NHL and in the KHL. In 315 games in the KHL, he would score 115 goals. A goal every two to three games for Kuzmenko might just be enough to carry the Jets to a playoff berth.
“There’s been an emergent situation with Kuzmenko and the fact he’s played under 15 minutes in five of his last six games and he’s been sat twice,” Friedman said on Saturday. “As you can imagine, there are some conversations around him. Teams have called Vancouver saying, ‘What are you willing to do here?’ You know, the Canucks are always looking to clear cap room.”
The only issue is what you are willing to trade for a guy who is being shopped by the Canucks and has a contract worth 5.5 million dollars for the rest of the year? If Connor is out for the long term, there isn’t much of an issue in making that money work, but if it’s a short-term injury, the Jets could be in cap hell for the rest of the season.
You also need to consider Kuzmenko’s 12-team no-trade list, and we all know every player has Winnipeg on that list. But if Winnipeg isn’t on the list and Connor is out for the rest of the season, trade Logan Stanley and a third-round pick for the Russian forward. Both players are needing a change of scenery, and if the money works, it could be a great trade between the Jets and Canucks.
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