The Winnipeg Jets will be buyers at the trade deadline. However, when most people assume it will be for a forward, it should be for a defenseman, and here’s why Jakob Chychrun fits the bill. He plays the right side where the Jets lack depth on a defensive group that still needs bolstering.
Chychrun’s current club, the Arizona Coyotes, is looking for draft picks for a full rebuild, and the Jets have plenty of depth to offer. Chychrun has two years left on a favourable contract and would shore up the offense and defense of the club simultaneously.
Jets Need Defensive Help
Before you throw me under the bus and clamour for the Jets to obtain a forward, consider that other than Josh Morrissey, the Jets’ defense is average at best. The addition of Chychrun would be perfect, as he’s a top-pairing defenseman who plays the right side and can quarterback the power play.
“I don’t think Winnipeg has the kind of defence corps that you look at, on paper, and feel stirred toward feelings of Cup contention.”– Murat Ates, from “Can Winnipeg Jets win Stanley Cup with this defence? Dylan Samberg’s trajectory? Mailbag, part 2”, The Athletic, 15/01/2023
On a Coyotes team that has allowed the fourth most goals in the NHL this season, Chychrun has a plus/minus rating of plus-5. That is second-best on the team, and he’s the only defenseman on the positive side of that stat.
The Jets’ defense under head coach Rick Bowness has significantly improved this season. However, Chychrun’s skill and competitiveness would more than solidify the one weakness critics have had of the Jets in recent years.
“…Chychrun is precisely the type of player Winnipeg needs to make a legitimate Stanley Cup run. Acquiring Chychrun would provide the Jets with two top-pairing caliber players and could give them three rock-solid defense pairings.”– Jacob Stoller, from “Could Jakob Chychrun be the Winnipeg Jets’ Missing Piece?”, The Hockey News, 20/12/2022
The Jets currently possess the NHL’s second-best penalty kill, behind only the Boston Bruins. Their goals-against average of 2.61 is fourth best in the NHL, and a team once maligned for its team defence is in the top 10 in most categories when it comes to preventing goals. I know this is very cliche, but…defense wins championships, and Chychrun would seal a leak the Jets have had for several years now.
Coyotes’ Asking Price for Chychrun is High
If you haven’t heard, the asking price for Chychrun’s services is high. You don’t go shopping for a Cadillac expecting to pay the sticker price you would see on a Buick. Every NHL team knows this, and since the Coyotes have been shopping him to buyers all season, the time for general manager (GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff to strike could be now, before the trade deadline.
Money won’t be an issue for the Jets as they have over $9 million in deadline cap space. No, this is going to be an asset issue. The Coyotes are in full rebuild mode looking for as many draft picks as possible with the ultimate goal of getting the number-one selection in this year’s entry draft, and building around the consensus first-overall pick Connor Bedard. The Jets won’t have a high first-round pick, but they have several first-rounders in their system they could offer.
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With the likes of Rutger McGroarty, Chaz Lucius and Brad Lambert up front, along with Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg on the blue line, the Jets have the resources to make the deal. Cheveldayoff can put together a number of combinations of players and picks that the Coyotes would seriously have to consider. The question is, will he be willing to pay that price?
Coyotes’ massive Jakob Chychrun trade asking price, revealedhttps://t.co/LsFfTYTq7F— NHL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNHL) January 24, 2023
Chychrun is more than a rental. His current deal pays him a team-friendly $4.6 million per season with term. He has two more years on his contract beyond this season and wouldn’t be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) until the summer of 2025. In terms of cap space and future availability, it’s a deal worth considering.
The Jets Don’t Need as Much Help Upfront as Anticipated
The Jets have been criticized for their lack of depth at the forward position, but their recent play through an injury-plagued December would suggest otherwise. They had seven regulars sidelined with injuries and still pulled off a 9-7 winning record through the month.
Find a team with three better centres than Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Adam Lowry. Then add elite scoring in Kyle Connor or Nikolaj Ehlers, the ruggedness of Blake Wheeler, and the hockey IQ of a young Cole Perfetti, and scoring isn’t an issue for this team. The Jets have scored 160 goals to date, with Scheifele approaching the 30-goal mark and Connor and Dubois each adding 20-plus goals.
Add one of the planet’s best goaltenders in Connor Hellebuyck, and the Jets are poised to take a run at the Stanley Cup. The price to pay for Chychrun is high but is worth paying. With Hellebuyck, Schiefele, Dubois, and Wheeler all UFAs in 2024, the current window of opportunity for the Jets to win with this roster is small.
This is not the time for the Jets to obtain more depth with a third-line forward. This is the time to act. The Jets have consistently been at the top of the Western Conference. They should be a team others fear meeting in the playoffs. They have a few weaknesses, and the ones they had over the past few seasons are being eliminated as the season progresses. I couldn’t think of a better time or player for the Jets to take a big swing at than right now with Chychrun. Just ask the Toronto Raptors if they regret signing Kawhi Leonard in 2018, knowing they would probably lose him the following season.
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.