Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made a number of logical moves during what was a busy and overall successful 2022 Trade Deadline for his team.
Cheveldayoff Stays the Seller’s Course and Sends Copp to Rangers
Most importantly, Cheveldayoff stayed the course and traded Andrew Copp.
Copp, a versatile forward, was the biggest piece of trade bait Cheveldayoff had to tempt contenders looking for a rental with. The 27-year-old has 35 points this season and has blossomed into a strong two-way player who can play centre or wing and up and down the lineup.
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The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, and New York Rangers were all rumoured to be courting Copp, a veteran of 467 NHL games. Just prior to the 2 p.m. Central/3 p.m. Eastern deadline, news broke that the Rangers had won out and that Copp would be heading to the Big Apple.
In exchange, the Jets received centre Morgan Barron, conditional 2022 second-round pick, another conditional second-round pick, and a 2023 fifth-round pick.
The 2022 second-round pick becomes a 2022 first-round pick if the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Final and Copp plays in at least 50 per cent of the Rangers’ playoff games. The other conditional second-round selection will either be the St. Louis Blues’ 2022 second-round pick or the Rangers’ 2023 second-round pick.
Barron, 23 years old, has split time between the Rangers and their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, this season. The left-shot centre was drafted in the sixth round in 2017 and in 18-career NHL games, has one goal and one assist. Touted as a physical player who is strong net-front, he was assigned to the Manitoba Moose.
Cheveldayoff Was Realistic About Jets’ Situation
There was some chatter over the past few weeks that Cheveldayoff might opt to keep the pending unrestricted free agent as an “in-house rental,” as the Jets are sticking around in the Western Conference Wild Card conversation — four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second spot — and are 6-3-1 in their past 10 games.
That would have been extremely poor asset management. Even if the Jets were to make the playoffs — the chances of which MoneyPuck.com pegs at just nine per cent — they would be quickly dispatched by the overpowering Avalanche in the first round. The past two games, a Friday loss to the Bruins and a shaky Sunday win over the Chicago Blackhawks, show pretty clearly the Jets are too flawed to make a deep run.
Then, they would have lost Copp for nothing in the summer, as his salary ask would not have been possible to meet considering the Jets’ cap situation. Cheveldayoff was smart to stick to the “sell Copp” plan and was realistic about his team’s station.
Copp had a big impact on the Jets over eight seasons since being drafted in 2013. He is sixth in games played (466), 12th in goals (74), 13th in assists (107), 10th in points (181), 5th in shorthanded goals (5), and 11th in game-winning goals (12).
Jets Bring in Big-Bodied Sanford, Familiar Face Appleton
Kevin Cheveldayoff also added to his roster, bringing in a pair of forwards for the stretch run.
About 30 minutes before the deadline, news broke that the Jets had acquired left-winger Zach Sanford from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.
Sanford, at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, will bring some size to the Jets’ bottom six. A physical player with some offensive upside, he has nine goals and eight assists in 62 games this season and is a veteran of 271 games over six NHL seasons.
The 27-year old, originally drafted 61st overall by the Washington Capitals in 2013, carries a $2 million cap hit and will be an UFA this summer. He can be seen as a very low-risk rental.
The Sanford acquisition came a day after the Jets acquired a familiar face in Mason Appleton from the Seattle Kraken The acquisition, which came in exchange for just a 2023 fourth-round pick, insulated them in advance from the loss of Copp.
Appleton — a 2015 6th-round Jets’ selection — played 138 games for the team between 2018-19 and 2020-21, recording 20 goals and 23 assists. His 2020-21 campaign was his best as a professional, as he set career-highs in goals (12), assists (13), plus/minus, (plus 9), and average time on ice (14:25.)
Related: Jets Make Smart Move by Re-Acquiring Appleton from Kraken
Appleton was left unprotected by the Jets and claimed by the Kraken at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. In 49 games this season for the last-in-the-Pacific squad, he had six goals and 11 assists for 17 points with a minus-4 rating and an average TOI of 14:18.
It’s likely both Sanford and Appleton will play on the third line going forward, perhaps with Adam Lowry between them.
Jets Tinker By Trading Beaulieu, Offloading Little’s LTIR Contract, Swapping AHL D-Men
The Jets also cleared out cap space by trading depth defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and his $1.25 million contract to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional 2022 seventh rounder.
They also did so by trading Bryan Little’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes. Little has been on long-term injured reserve for the past two seasons as he suffered a career-ending injury in November, 2019 after taking a Nikolaj Ehlers slap shot to the side of the head. He was under contract through 2023-24.
“The cap implications for the Jets are more significant next season and 2023-24 than right here and now,” The Athletic’s Murat Ates explained. “Next season they can avoid LTIR and build cap space throughout the year.”
The Jets sent 2018 third-round selection Nathan Smith along with Little’s contract, as Smith — currently playing at Minnesota State University (Mankato) — will be a UFA in the offseason and was not interested in signing in Winnipeg.
Along with the added future cap flexibility, the Jets received a fourth-rounder in the deal.
Lastly, they traded AHL depth defenseman Nelson Nogier to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Markus Phillips. Nogier, 25, played in 242 games for the Moose over six seasons and also appeared in 11 games for the Jets — but none since 2018-19 — since being drafted in the fourth round in 2014.
Phillips was drafted in the fourth round in 2017 and has spent the past two seasons with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign. The left-shot 23-year-old has one goal and four assists in 38 games this season. He was assigned to the Moose.
Stastny Staying Put is the Surprise of the Day
The surprise of the day was that Cheveldayoff did not move pending UFA Paul Stastny, who is having a strong season with 17 goals and 14 assists in 52 games. It was believed he’d attract a number of suitors, but Cheveldayoff said he didn’t get many calls about him and seemed to know early on there wasn’t going to be a trade fit.
Keeping Stastny doesn’t carry as much risk as keeping Copp. Stastny is playing a top-six role and would have been challenging to replace as he’s playing with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Despite his role, at 36-years-old, he wouldn’t have fetched as big of a return as Copp, a decade his junior.
While the Jets still may lose Stastny for nothing in the offseason, there’s always the potential he signs a team-friendly deal. He’s spoken in the past how much he enjoys being a member of the franchise, and the franchise obviously enjoys having him too, as they’ve traded for him twice — at the 2018 Trade Deadline from the Blues and in the extended 2020 offseason from the Golden Knights.
Overall, the moves Cheveldayoff made Monday were logical. The Jets still have a talented core of forwards even with Copp’s departure, and if they do manage to make the playoffs, it should be treated as nothing more than an unexpected bonus. Most importantly, Cheveldayoff divested his biggest asset for a good return.