How Should the Winnipeg Jets Approach the Trade Deadline?

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We’ve heard it all before: “Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t like to make trades” or “Kevin Cheveldayoff prefers to draft and develop talent, not trade for it.”

Yes, these statements are true. And with the way the Winnipeg Jets have performed this season, there’s a serious argument to be made about not only how Cheveldayoff has built this team, but as to whether or not he should be in discussion for the league’s General Manager of the Year award. Saving the discussion about why Chevy is deserving of the award for another day, let’s take a look at what he should do come the NHL trade deadline.

If Cheveldayoff has a history of not wanting to make deals, who’s to say he does anything before the deadline? For starters, he’ll be pressured by other GMs within the Central Division. Both Blues GM Doug Armstrong and Predators GM David Poile are speculated to be big-time buyers at the deadline, so is it safe to add Chevy and the Jets to this list of buyers?

Not necessarily, but I would pencil the Jets down on the list of teams looking to add playoff experience. Maybe don’t expect any big names to come to Winnipeg this trade deadline, though. With Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck coming to the end of their contracts this year, the Jets can’t really afford to add anything more than rentals, and a lot of the big names on the market have deals that pay them through next season. 

But before talking about players the Jets should add, let’s take a look at two players the Jets might be willing to move in a deadline deal. 

Let’s start with the team’s most recent call-up: goaltender Michael Hutchinson. Some fans may not agree with dealing away one of the AHL’s hottest goalies, but the fact of the matter is that he’s an expendable asset. Also, the Jets were reportedly already taking calls on the 27-year-old earlier this season. His leaving would open the door for 22-year-old Eric Comrie to start for the Moose, furthering his development.

What makes Hutchinson an asset other teams would want to deal for? There are a lot of teams around the league looking for help at the backup position. With the way Hutchinson has been playing in the minors, he’s been garnering some attention. Tied for the AHL lead in save percentage at 94.2 percent and with a goals-against average of 1.94, he’s made a compelling case to come back to the NHL as a backup. On top of this, Hutchinson is in the final year of his $1.15 contract, so the team acquiring him could have it off the books next season.

Sticking with the Manitoba Moose, we move to forward Nic Petan. Since being taken with the forty-third overall pick in the 2013 draft, the British Columbian has faced plenty of criticism from both the local fan base and the organization. What makes Petan attractive for other teams is his apparent untapped potential. And a fresh start could be just what Petan needs to get going at the NHL level, with 34 points in 35 games thus far for the Western-Conference-leading Moose. With the current and future depth the Jets already have at the centre position, it’s hard to imagine Petan finding a permanent spot on this roster. 

With this in mind, who should the Jets look to add?

They need depth and speed. If the last two playoffs have shown us anything, it’s that depth is key to any playoff run. Now, the Jets are already a very deep team, so what kind of players do you add? Keeping in mind that they’re probably looking for playoff experience, it begs the question: what kind of experience can you get back in a deal involving Petan or Hutchinson? 

One player I’d look at is defenseman Ian Cole of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over the past two seasons, Cole has laced up in 49 playoff games, averaging 17:30 in those games, winning the Stanley Cup twice. Though he plays a quiet game, his role in the top-four on last year’s Penguins team was critical to them winning the Cup. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, Cole would be an excellent addition to any young team looking for experience. 

Who do the Jets deal to acquire Cole? If I were Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, the two names I discussed above would surely entice me, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with Hutchinson. After losing starter Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft last summer, the Penguins have yet to find a true back-up to Matt Murray. With just half a season left on his contract, Hutchinson would be the perfect guy to step in, giving the Pens the option to let him go at the end of the season should they want to go with prospect Tristan Jarry.

Another guy I’d consider dealing for would be Panthers winger Colton Sceviour. At 28 years old, the speedy depth scorer has little playoff experience, but he would fit very well in the Jets’ bottom six. He kills penalties, scores at even strength, and can play centre and winger. With a faceoff percentage of 55 percent, Sceviour would fit perfectly on a Jets team that wins 52.6 percent of their draws. With six goals and six assists in 41 games this season, Sceviour would make the Jets just that much deeper.

While the price for Sceviour shouldn’t be too high, it could take a third-round pick to make this kind of deal. With the amount of talent already stockpiled in the Jets’ system, losing a third-rounder to help make your team deeper should be on the table.

Asides from these prospective deals, expect the Jets to be relatively quiet around the deadline. With the team already rolling, it wouldn’t make sense to add anything that might throw the team off, especially down the stretch. Depth and experience could be all the Jets need to put them over the top.

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