The margin by which the Winnipeg Jets improved over the offseason, without making any major subtractions, should certainly be admired by fans and analysts alike. Keeping all of their core pieces, the Jets simultaneously improved their top-six and solidified their backend, filling two important needs on a team that had consistently lacked depth beyond their top players.
Making a massive splash less than a month into an already unprecedented season, and the Jets seem poised to make a deep playoff run once again. As March approaches and the season continues, it seems fitting to update you on where some former Jets currently are and what impact they’ve been making with their new organizations.
Let’s start with the obvious. Laine was the prized asset going back to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois, a trade that sent shockwaves through the hockey community as two former top five picks were swapped for each other.
While Laine’s start with the Blue Jackets didn’t get off to the greatest start, with the superstar being benched after allegedly verbally abusing an assistant coach, he has since settled in with his new team.
Currently skating on the Jackets’ top line, alongside Cam Atkinson and former Jets teammate Jack Roslovic, Laine has picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. With an impressive 10 points in 12 games and seeing ample time on the power play, it doesn’t seem like Laine has any complaints with his new home so far.
Since it’ll likely be years before we find out which team won this trade, it’s safe to say that both organizations are currently enjoying the production from the players they received. Dubois has hit his stride in Manitoba while Laine continues to produce in Columbus, a result expected by many after the trade was announced.
The Jets also used the Laine trade as an opportunity to ship out another disgruntled player, as Roslovic was sent packing to his home state of Ohio. Roslovic was a consistent bottom-six player for parts of four seasons with the Jets and could never find consistent minutes in any significant roles.
However, the change of scenery has seemingly re-energized the 24-year-old, as Roslovic is seeing consistent top-six minutes and has been a staple on the right flank of Columbus’ power play.
While 13 points in 15 games is impressive as it is, the way Roslovic has been able to transition his game since joining the Blue Jackets is arguably more admirable. He’s been able to mould himself into an ideal offensive player, being an excellent distributor on a line with Atkinson and the aforementioned Laine, while also having the ability to finish, earning his spot on the top power play unit.
While his defensive game still needs some work, Roslovic has certainly impressed since leaving the Jets. As I mentioned previously, it’s still way too early to identify the winners and losers of this trade, but Roslovic could certainly be a difference-maker when this deal is revisited in the near future.
Once a highly regarded depth scoring option, Cody Eakin’s career has taken a bit of a turn since departing the organization. Initially acquired by Winnipeg as a rental for the 2019-20 playoffs, Eakin impressed in eight regular-season games, posting a goal and four assists. However, it was quite the opposite when the playoffs rolled around, as Eakin was held off the scoresheet completely, carrying a minus-4 rating in the four games that he played.
Departing the Jets as a free agent the following offseason, Eakin inked a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres, and in short, things have not gone according to plan.
Currently flanked by Tobias Rieder and Kyle Okposo on the Sabres’ third line, Eakin has struggled to produce, registering just two points in his first 18 games. Combine that with a minus-6 rating, and the former 20 goal scorer has seemingly lost his touch on a struggling Sabres team.
Signing as a free agent ahead of the 2019-20 season, Anthony Bitetto enjoyed a productive season with the Jets, posting career highs in assists (eight), points (eight), plus/minus rating (plus-3), and ice time, averaging over 15 minutes per game.
Fulfilling his role as a depth defenseman, Bitetto was another player that departed the Jets in favour of his hometown team, joining the New York Rangers on a two-year, two-way contract over the summer.
Having dressed in just nine games so far this season, Bitetto is currently splitting time between the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) and the Rangers’ taxi squad. However, with Jacob Trouba landing on the IR, the Island Park native could certainly find himself suiting up once again in the near future.
Rounding out this list is Dmitry Kulikov, a player that spent three seasons with the Jets, amassing over 160 games played, including 11 playoff contests. While never being a standout after being selected 14th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft, Kulikov was another role player on the Jets’ blueline.
While he didn’t necessarily live up to his three-year, $12 million contract that he signed in 2017, Kulikov did make an impact in terms of being a reliable presence on the Jets’ backend. Signing a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils this past October, it seems as though Kulikov is fulfilling a similar role on his new team.
Currently partnered with P.K. Subban on the Devils’ second pairing, Kulikov has played in 15 games so far this season, registering one assist and carrying a plus-2 rating.
While Kulikov was never a standout and probably wasn’t worth a 14th overall pick, he has carved out a respectable career in the NHL, suiting up in nearly 700 NHL contests. Similar to Bitetto, the Jets quickly replaced Kulikov with other depth pieces, and letting him walk hasn’t impacted Winnipeg in the slightest.
A Look Back
Overall, none of these players were huge losses for the Jets. Kulikov and Bitetto were replaced almost immediately with Derek Forbort and Dylan DeMelo, the emergence of Adam Lowry has made Eakin quite forgettable, and it’s still way too early to judge the impact from Laine and Roslovic’s departure.
With a balanced mix of blockbuster trades and common roster turnover, the Jets are in a good position to eventually become consistent contenders.
Do you remember any of these players? How do you think the Jets have improved since their departure? Let me know in the comments.
A sport media student at Ryerson University, Josh Kim is currently a photographer with Ryerson, the ECHL and OHL and has covered a variety of events ranging from the PWHPA to the NCAA. In addition to being a Winnipeg Jets writer, World Junior contributor, and NHL Draft columnist with THW, he is the host of the Get Your Head in the Game podcast, which connects mental health and sport and is available on all platforms. If you’re interested in seeing a full display of his work, please visit his website: joshkimphoto.com