Before you rake me over the coals, hear me out. I am not in suggesting the Winnipeg Jets must trade Mark Scheifele, but in doing so, they could upgrade their overall lineup. There is always a price to pay when a team acquires assets and the Jets need someone significant. That is not debatable.
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The Jets came out of the All-Star break playing some of their best hockey of the season…sort of. They had five consecutive games against Central Division opponents and managed points in all of them except against the one team behind them in the standings. They convincingly beat the Minnesota Wild twice and the Nashville Predators then got a single point in an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars but lost with a miserable effort against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team with an atrocious minus-50 in goal differential.
Jets Looked Like a Trade May Not Be Needed
In that five-game stretch, Scheifele was on fire, and the Jets clawed their way to within three points of a playoff spot. Now, after two consecutive losses to the Alberta-based teams, they sit seven points back with four teams ahead of them. In the last three games, Scheifele was non-existent.
The seven-point deficit is going to be difficult but perhaps not as arduous as climbing ahead of the four teams in front of them. So with a 4-3-1 record over the past eight games, the immediate optimistic vibe coming off the break has since waned, and the Jets seem to be the same team we saw before the break. As stated Scheifele was on fire in the first five games but was nearly nonexistent in the last three. For the Jets to claim one of the two wildcard spots, they are going to have to string together some wins and Scheifele is going to have to lead like he has demonstrated in the past. If those two things don’t happen, the Jets need to think about moving him while his value is at a premium.
Related: Winnipeg Jets’ Time to Sell Has Arrived
In hockey, it’s no secret that the importance of the players to the team depends on which position they play; it starts in the crease and works its way out. The forward unit is the least important of the three positions, and the Jets arguably have the most depth in that area. The defence has improved from last season, and if COVID-19 has offered anything, it has exposed that the Jets have good young depth on the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and should use them in the next few seasons. Ville Heinola is ready now, while Johnny Kovacevic, Dylan Samberg and Declan Chisholm have all had spot duty with the parent club and shown they are close.
Jets Are Likely to Be Sellers in March
So, here’s my point, the Jets are set in the pipes with Connor Hellebuyck. They have a myriad of young talented forwards both on the current roster and eating in the wings in the minors who are very capable. What they lack is a defensive leader who is physical, offensive, but also young, and most importantly, has a relatively inexpensive contract. There happens to be one of those available. Jakob Chychrun, of the Arizona Coyotes, was the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He is a 6-foot-2 offensive defenseman, who last season notched 18 goals and 23 assists in 56 games, which included 19 points on the power play. He is by all reports the best defenseman available before the March 21 trade deadline and comes with a favourable contract. At $4.6 million per season, a salary he is locked into until the end of the 2024-25 season, he would fit the needs of the Jets nicely.
Chychrun in the lineup with Josh Morrissey would be a fantastic one-two offensive punch for the Jets, and with Brenden Dillon and Logan Stanley, size and defensive toughness would also be present. Maybe Nate Schmidt gets moved in this case, and again another sizeable contract helps with much-needed cap space. The acquisition of Chychrun provides a number of viable options for the Jets both on and off the ice.
The asking price for Chychrun would most certainly include Scheifele. Scheifele is 28 years old and is signed to a contract that pays him $6.2 million per year. That’s a $1.5 million savings in cap space on a team that has absolutely zero wiggle room right now and is going to have to re-sign and give a raise to Pierre Luc-Dubois in the offseason. The Jets are also locked into a ginormous contract with an aging Blake Wheeler that is going to be extremely tough to move and forward Andrew Copp is going to need and deserves a serious pay increase next season and the money is going to have to come from somewhere.
We need to talk about Mark Scheifele.— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) February 3, 2022
It’s safe to say the bloom is off the rose when it comes to the first-ever #NHLJets 2.0 draft pick. And the 28-year-old seems a perplexing shell of his former self.
Where do we go from here?
My latest column: https://t.co/YBYw7OCxtT#wfp
Granted Scheifele has played well of late, but he has been, much like the Jets’ season, inconsistent. If you look at his stats, they’re fine on the surface, but a closer look shows some disparity. After the All-Star break, he tallied 11 points in the first five games, however in the last three games, including the two Alberta losses, he has been held pointless. If you take out that five-game streak, he has only 29 points in 39 games. Good numbers overall but not Scheifele numbers. Of the remaining 29 points, he had another five-game point streak in early December where he notched nine points. Take those out of the mix and he has only 20 points in 34 games… average numbers at best. Is it any wonder the Jets have been inconsistent? Take that and his lack of desire to play defensive hockey and I say you’ve got a player who can be moved.
Diehard Jets fans are going to say the team can’t trade Scheifele. He’s the heart and soul of the team, the driver of the offence. and as Scheifele goes, so too do the Jets. Well, they also once said that about some guy named Wayne Gretzky and Oilers’ owner Peter Pocklington faced death threats for his bold move… that is until they won the Stanley Cup the year after the trade. All was forgotten and the people of Edmonton learned that ever valuable lesson that life does go on. The point being, sometimes you have to risk it to get the biscuit. Although Scheifele is a very big cog in the Jets’ proverbial wheel. When you’re a non-playoff team, sometimes the price of improvement is uncomfortable. Maybe it’s time for the Jets to be bold and do something uncomfortable.
Food for thought.