by Allan Madriaga
If you’re the Jets GM, do you buy, sell, or stand pat at trade deadline? Winnipeg is still in the playoff race but oddsmakers are confident the Jets won’t be playing postseason hockey this April. As a result, Kevin Cheveldayoff’s decision to sell at trade deadline was the right choice for this hockey club.
Winnipeg Jets veteran forward, Drew Stafford, was traded to the Boston Bruins for a conditional 2018 sixth-round pick. He was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Regularly playing in bottom six roles and being injured or ill for a good part of the season, Stafford netted only four goals and nine assists in 40 games. When you look at the bigger picture, the Jets no longer had room for him.
Cheveldayoff has done an exceptional job drafting and developing players over the past six years. He has a locker room packed full of budding young stars. Look across the hall at the farm team and you’ll find another room filled with talented young players. Roslovic and Connor are already making a huge impact on the Manitoba Moose. It’s very possible they will crack the Jets roster next season. To add such players means the Jets will need to subtract from someplace else.
Unfortunately, Stafford didn’t fit into the Jets’ plan going forward. It’s likely Cheveldayoff tried pitching other pending UFAs to other teams, however, guys like Pavelec, Thorburn, and Postma didn’t hold much value at the trade deadline.
Speaking of value, it’s no secret the Jets are a budget team. The salary cap for each team this season is at $73M. After the Stafford trade the Jets hovered around the $66M mark. Expect the young guns such as Laine, Ehlers, Trouba, Morrissey, and Hellebuyck to get massive raises when their entry level contracts are done after the next few seasons.
Cheveldayoff will need all the help he can get to make room for these upcoming monster contracts.
Another thing that throws a wrench into this year’s trade deadline is the June 20th expansion draft. The Vegas Golden Knights will be selecting 30 players in total. This means they will be selecting one player from each existing team. If Cheveldayoff acquired a player at trade deadline he would have had another player to worry about at the expansion draft.
Spending any picks or prospects for such a player only to lose him at the expansion draft would be foolish. Each team is limited to how many players they can protect. Teams can either protect eight skaters, or seven forwards and three defensemen. All teams can protect only one goaltender. Taking the eight skaters route would mean the Jets would lose one good defensemen. Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien are safe as they have no movement clauses. Will Cheveldayoff leave either Jacob Trouba or Tyler Myers exposed? Trouba is an emerging star and Myers is already in his prime and has a team friendly contract. The Jets GM will need a well-thought out plan for this situation.
The lack of much movement at this year’s trade deadline makes it clear the Winnipeg Jets are staying the course, for now. The way things are going and with all the talent on this team, Cheveldayoff won’t be as quiet next time around. And the Jets won’t be sellers. They will be buyers looking to bolster their lineups in advance of a playoff run.
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