The Winnipeg Jets have proven themselves to be a good team this season. They are not an elite team, but a good team. The problem is elite teams win the Stanley Cup, not good teams. The Jets cannot capture the Stanley Cup this season if they don’t make some significant moves before the March 3 trade deadline. Here are three reasons why, in ascending order of importance.
The Jets need to hit the trade market hard. Unless things change with some of their players, they need help on the blue line. It’s no secret they have offensive weapons at their disposal, but their pool of scorers is not nearly deep enough to sustain a long playoff run. But the most significant piece to this year’s trade puzzle lies with the current roster and how its future uncertainty affects the present-day trade deadline.
Jets May Need to Trade for a Defenseman
Though Josh Morrissey is having a career season and leads the Jets in assists and is second on the squad in scoring, the Jets need to add a defenseman. They’ve increased the scoring from their defensemen this season. But the production drops after Morrissey, and another top defenseman is the final piece needed to take a deep run into the playoffs. Guys like Nate Schmidt, Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo have improved their play and have reduced the number of high-danger opportunities their opposition, but they lack offensive upside.
Related: Jets Should Trade for Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun
Latest News & Highlights
The Jets need another offensive defenseman to quarterback the power play and provide a consistent offensive threat at even strength. Neal Pionk was supposed to be that guy, and he has scored a career-high seven goals this season, but his defensive play has fallen off this season. And unless this takes a quick turn for the better, the Jets need to pull the trigger on a deal for a defenseman.
Jets Need a Forward, Maybe Two
The Jets’ top-six forwards are skilled, can score and are as well-rounded as any team in the NHL. Of their top-six forwards, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers are all scoring at a point-per-game clip or better. The other two players in that group — Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti — are on pace to score 63 and 48 points, respectively. They bookend the Jets in terms of age and are both pulling their weight more than many anticipated. That’s especially true of Wheeler, who was publicly relieved of the captaincy before the season, played through a significant injury and has still maintained a high level of play and professionalism.
However, the Jets need to obtain a top-six forward. There is no question about that. Right now, they have two lines that produce offence. Stanley Cup champions need three. Adam Lowry centres a third line that has had a lot of inconsistencies, though Lowry’s linemates are never consistent. Lowry’s offensive contributions have been non-existent lately. After scoring seven goals in the first 28 games, he hasn’t put the puck in the net since Dec. 11 in a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. That’s a streak of 24 games without a goal.
They need someone for the top two lines that adds consistent scoring and allows Wheeler or Perfetti to drop to the third line to provide Lowry with a consistent linemate that would increase production from the third line. They could add a middle-six forward, but there’s no point in that unless it was a second forward they made a trade to acquire.
Jets Have to Make a Trade Deadline Splash This Year
The real reason the Jets need to make a couple of trades is that this year HAS TO BE the year. The Jets have three key players who face uncertain futures with the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck and Scheifele are unrestricted free agents (UFA) next season, and Dubois is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. They cannot win without these three players. They are at the very heartbeat of the Jets this season and, with the addition of Morrissey, have been the Jets’ best and most consistent players all season.
If they cannot sign Hellebuyck and Scheifele to long-term extensions by next summer, they will have to trade them at some point. Without them, the current roster can’t win the Stanley Cup, and Dubois has made it known he wants to explore the UFA market after next season. All three players can leave Winnipeg at the end of the 2023-24 season, which makes this season even more imperative.
“I’m a believer guys, that really no price is too high. Because I think the Jets should be doing everything possible to go all in. THIS IS THE YEAR. We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen with Hellebuyck, Dubois and Scheifele. If all three of those guys indicate that they’re not willing to sign extensions, long-term extensions… to me you’ve got to move them next summer.”– Mike McIntyre, Illegal Curve Hockey Show, 04/02/2023
The good news is the Western Conference doesn’t have a team that has staked its claim to superiority. Nobody predicted that at the All-Star break, the Dallas Stars, Seattle Kraken and the Jets would be the three top teams in the conference. The West is wide open, it’s ripe for the taking, and it’ll be a dogfight to see who emerges as Conference champions.
Because of that, it is the time for the Jets to “go big or go home” at the trade deadline. They have the money, have the need, and have the chance to make a deep run. They say the best poker players know when to move their chips all in. Now is the time for the Jets to push their chips to the middle, because they have as good a shot as any to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.