The Winnipeg Jets made a shrewd move by re-acquiring Mason Appleton from the Seattle Kraken.
Appleton a Known Commodity to the Jets
Appleton was a player the Jets never wanted to lose, and now he’s back with the organization after a brief West Coast pit stop.
Late Sunday night, Elliotte Friedman broke news that the Jets had acquired the forward from the Kraken for a mid-round pick, one day ahead of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Darren Dreger later followed up the reporting that the pick would be a 2023 fourth-rounder.
Appleton, 26, was a diamond-in-the-rough selection by Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who plucked the Wisconsinite centre in the 6th round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Appleton played 138 games for the Jets 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.)
Despite the strong season, when the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft came along, the Jets had too many other forwards they could not stand to lose. Appleton was left unprotected and claimed by the Kraken.
In 49 games this season, Appleton has six goals and 11 assists for 17 points with a minus-4 rating and an average TOI of 14:18.
Appleton a Logical Replacement for Copp
Appleton is a logical replacement for Andrew Copp, a pending UFA who a few teams have come knocking for and will likely be on the move today (if the Jets decide to embrace their destiny as sellers, which this author believes they should.)
Like Copp, Appleton is versatile. He can play centre or right-wing, kill penalties, provide depth scoring in a bottom six role, and can jump up to the top six in a pinch. By his third season with the Jets, he displayed great vision and awareness that allowed him to both hit teammates with passes that create chances and be in the right place at the right time.
There was no panic to his game at that time and he looked confident and calm with the puck whenever he had it. He was strong from an analytics standpoint and also had a refreshingly mature outlook.
Appleton’s RFA Status is Team Friendly
Appleton is a restricted free agent after this season, which means he remains under team control and is not free to just sign elsewhere like an unrestricted free agent can.
Since RFAs don’t have the leverage of “pay me or I’ll walk and you’ll lose me for nothing,” they usually settle for short-term, team-friendly deals.
Having affordable players who can contribute in multiple areas is of utmost important in today’s NHL, considering the salary cap is only rising $1 million next season. It’s also important to the Jets since they are right up to the salary cap ceiling (barring the dollars they may move out today.)
The Kraken are not the Vegas Golden Knights 2.0. Unlike the Sin City team — which was an instant contender after the 2017 Expansion Draft — the Kraken have struggled in their first NHL campaign and are last in the Pacific Division by a wide margin. They are doing a hard sell and attempting to acquire as many picks as possible for this summer’s Entry Draft.
When you add it all up, relinquishing a mid-rounder to the Kraken is well-worth it for a player the Jets already know and trust. Cheveldayoff made a good deal that insulates a likely Trade Deadline loss ahead of time and returns a homegrown player to the fold.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.