The Winnipeg Jets have had decisions to make like every franchise in regards to which players to bring back and which to move on from. The choices that are made by the front office depend upon performance, salary, and age but are not always simple to make. Here are three former members of the Jets who are having good seasons and three who are not in 2021-22.
A Good Season: Patrik Laine
At one time, Patrik Laine was once considered to be the future of the Jets. He was a top player on the team, but ultimately last season, he along with Jack Roslovic were traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois. He would finish the season off with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 45 games with the Blue Jackets and has become a favourite among the fifth-line fan base.
Back in July, Laine and the Blue Jackets agreed on an extension worth $7.5 million for the 2021-22 season. This season, he has boasted 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 games. He made his return to the line-up in late December after battling an oblique injury that sidelined him and recorded a goal against the Nashville Predators. Since returning, he has registered five points in 10 games. He remains one of the elite forwards on the Blue Jackets roster and as the season progresses, he is going to find more comfort within his new team. While Dubois’s departure from Columbus was rather dramatic, Laine has been able to win fans over in his short time with the team.
Struggling: Evander Kane
Evander Kane was part of the original Atlanta Thrashers, and when the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, Kane came with. During his first season with the Jets’, he amassed 57 points in 74 games which included a 30 goal season, the future was looking bright – so we all thought. Unfortunately, Kane and the Jets would run into a mountain of issues as the next three seasons progressed, instances which included: being benched by former head coach Claude Noel, flaunting money on social media, or making homophobic tweets. It was safe to say, the Jets needed to part ways with Kane and clean up their locker room. In 2014-15, he was dealt along with Zach Bogosian to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, and Brendan Lemieux.
This season, Kane once again has got himself into a heap of trouble. It started with domestic abuse, and gambling allegations, then he submitted a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to the NHL, and just this past month he was terminated from his AHL contract with the San Jose Barracuda for breaking the COVID protocols. Kane is a handful and nightmare off the ice but has proven to be useful on the ice. Currently, he is unsigned, but as rumours continue to swirl, he could find himself on a new club sooner than we expect.
A Good Season: Jacob Trouba
The former ninth overall pick spent six seasons with the Jets before being traded to the New York Rangers for Neal Pionk. The 6-foot-3 smooth-skating, two-way defenceman boasts a tremendous slap shot and displays a level of physicality that coaches drool over. During the 2018-19 season, prior to being traded, he registered 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) in 82 games and was certainly looking to be a major part of the Jets defensive future.
Gabriel Landeskog and Jacob Trouba drop the gloves after Trouba lays a hit on Nathan MacKinnon. pic.twitter.com/agtCdM63BL— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 9, 2021
Trouba is now in his third full season with the Rangers and is currently an assistant captain. This year, he has recorded 21 points in 42 games so far and if his play continues, he could reach the 50 point threshold once again, He has been in the news a few times this season for a few monster hits that went viral across the hockey world. He currently has 120 hits on the season. Shortly after being traded to the Rangers, he signed an extension worth $57 million and has become a staple on the Rangers blueline since.
Struggling: Jordie Benn
Jordie Benn’s time with the Jets was short, he only played eight games for the team last year and had just one lone assist. The Jets acquired Benn from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a sixth-round pick (Connor Lockhart) at the 2021 NHL Draft. Unfortunately, they obtained Benn’s services just a few years too late, in 2018-19 he registered a career-high 22 points with the Montréal Canadiens and played a secure role on the third defensive pairing. The stay-at-home defenseman is able to read the play well and sacrifices the body on every shift whether it means finishing a check, dropping the gloves, or blocking a shot. He plays a complete shutdown role.
The Jets and Benn were unable to come to an agreement on an extension, but it didn’t take long for him to find a new job. He and the Minnesota Wild agreed to a one-year contract worth $900,000. So far with the Wild, he has put up just two assists in 20 games – the lowest point production of his career. Benn still has time to turn his season around.
A Good Season: Sami Niku
Unfortunately, some prospects just blossom differently and that’s the case with Sami Niku. The Jets seemingly gave up on him last season after he spent four years in their organization. He was a big point producer for the Manitoba Moose, and during the 2017-18 season, he recorded 54 points in 76 games, giving Jets fans a little something to hope for. While Niku played 54 games with the Jets, he was severely underutilized given his potential. In Sept 2021, the Jets surprisingly terminated his contract, but days later he would sign with the Canadiens.
Niku and the Canadiens agreed to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000. This season, he has appeared in 13 games and currently has six assists. If his development continues on the right path, he could fill a full-time role on the Canadiens defence.
Struggling: Mason Appleton
Mason Appleton had a good stint with the Jets and even developed some solid chemistry with Jets forward Andrew Copp. Appleton is one of a number of players who have risen through the Moose organization and developed into NHL-caliber players. The former Michigan State University star had a career-high 25 points (12 goals,
13 assists) in 56 games last season and played a big role on the third line.
However, despite a good season, the Jets were forced to expose him at the expansion draft where the Seattle Kraken selected him. This season, he has just seven points in 26 games with the Kraken. While he is struggling, there is potential for Appleton to find his footing once again and fulfill a depth role.
The Jets have made some questionable moves, some that worked, some that have not, but it all seems to be paying off in the end. They will be looking to address any weaknesses at the upcoming trade deadline in March.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.