Following a quiet trade deadline, Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and company are preparing for what promises to be a busy offseason.
After the stunning departure of former number one defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets blue line was reduced to nothing but a revolving door of depth players, late-offseason pickups, and Josh Morrissey.
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With a plethora of free-agent options this summer, the Jets will have an abundance of players to choose from in order to bolster their defensive core. While 2020 is looking to be one of the deepest free agent classes of recent memory, Winnipeg will also have a fair share of trade options to explore, in the case that Cheveldayoff elects to add more roster turnover.
Here are 4 potential trade targets for the Jets as they look to retool and solidify their young blue line.
Matt Dumba, LD – Minnesota Wild
Starting this list off with a high-profile name, Matt Dumba would be a great first-pairing addition alongside Morrissey. The Saskatchewan-native has been a mainstay on the Minnesota Wild blue line ever since his sophomore season back in 2014-15. Still under team control for 3 more seasons, Dumba has enjoyed a consistent NHL career so far and at just 26 years old, he still has plenty of upside should he be dealt to a new team.
Dumba has seen his responsibilities on the ice gradually increase over the course of the last four seasons, consistently playing top-pairing minutes while having a fair share of time on the power play. Offensively inclined with a physical touch, Dumba would be an ideal replacement for Byfuglien.
Prying Dumba away from Minnesota, however, will not come cheap. The Wild have a deep defensive pool, but with Dumba being one of their top defensemen, it would most likely cost the Jets a future first-round pick and a prospect from their system in order to get a deal done.
Troy Stecher, RD – Vancouver Canucks
Consider this a “value” pick compared to Dumba. Troy Stecher has seen his role with the Vancouver Canucks slightly diminish recently, with the emergence of Quinn Hughes and the resurgence of Chris Tanev exiling him to the 3rd pairing. With that being said, Stecher has been quite consistent over the last few seasons, providing Vancouver with respectable numbers on the backend and acting as a quality depth option while prospects develop.
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The Canucks can certainly afford to let Stecher go, with the BC-native being a restricted free agent at season’s end. The Canucks also have a wealth of defensive prospects, with Jett Woo, Olli Juolevi and Brogan Rafferty waiting in the wings.
Given the specific landscape of the trade atmosphere, the Jets could more than likely negotiate a good deal to bring Stecher to Manitoba. Giving up an AHL player with bottom-six potential along with a mid-round draft pick would be a great price to bring Stecher in and negotiate a fresh contract. Being just 26 years old, Stecher would get a fresh start and a lot more ice time on a hungry Jets team.
Jonas Brodin, LD – Minnesota Wild
Another good option out of Minnesota, Jonas Brodin has been the pinnacle of many trade rumours over the last few seasons. Having just one year left on his contract, the Jets could force the Wild’s hand and entice them to unload Brodin. Not only would this allow the Jets to sign the Swede to an immediate extension, much like Mark Stone did when he was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights, but adding Brodin would also round out Winnipeg’s second pair.
Brodin has been a fine example of consistency over the last 7 seasons, playing more than 65 games in all of them and never failing to register less than 15 points. The veteran would be a great addition to a youthful Jets squad, as he would provide a leadership presence from the backend. Look for the Jets to offer up a mid-to-low round pick for Brodin, as the Wild could more than likely opt to begin their impending rebuild a couple of years early.
Rasmus Ristolainen, RD – Buffalo Sabres
This one would be a bit of a long shot as Ristolainen would certainly not come cheap. However, trade talks have ramped up recently involving Ristolainen and with the Buffalo Sabres torpedoing out of control, he could certainly be on the move sooner rather than later.
Ristolainen has posted superb numbers as a defenseman, reaching the 40-point plateau in four of his seven seasons. Standing at 6-foot-4, he would be an immediate improvement to the Jets defence and give rookie Ville Heinola a great linemate and mentor. With two years remaining on his deal, the Jets wouldn’t have to start negotiations on an extension until the following season.
The big roadblock here is the price. Ristolainen has shown, at times, that he can be the backbone of a team, which certainly won’t come cheap and the Jets don’t exactly have an abundance of top prospects. However, packaging a player like Kristian Vesalainen or Logan Stanley, along with a future draft pick could be enough to sway Sabres’ management in moving on from Ristolainen.
Tip of the Iceberg
The four players listed above are only just the favourites to be dealt. With a deep free-agent class and many available names, there’s no telling which direction Cheveldayoff will turn in order to improve his team. Other names like Josh Manson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ron Hainsey, and Jeff Petry are all solid options as well.
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The ball is now in the Jets court. Whether it be a trade or a big splash in free agency, the options are there, it’s only a matter of pulling the trigger.
A sport media student at Ryerson University, Josh Kim is currently a photographer with Ryerson, the ECHL and OHL and has covered a variety of events ranging from the PWHPA to the NCAA. In addition to being a Winnipeg Jets writer, World Junior contributor, and NHL Draft columnist with THW, he is the host of the Get Your Head in the Game podcast, which connects mental health and sport and is available on all platforms. If you’re interested in seeing a full display of his work, please visit his website: joshkimphoto.com