Panic time for Winnipeg Jets?

It’s hard, at times, to resist the urge to press the panic button in the NHL. A small run of bad games doesn’t have to be the end of the world for a team and doesn’t necessitate a change in personnel. Still, it may be time for the Winnipeg Jets to shake things up a bit.

We’ve talked in this space about the coaching situation for the Jets, especially in light of the availability of former staff members. But Claude Noel has proven that he’s not to blame for the troubles the team has had. Injuries certainly play a part, as does a tougher run on the road.

With the NHL Trade Deadline looming though, it’s time to take that hardline look at the team’s individual players and see if they can be sent elsewhere in return for a player or draft pick. Certainly, the Jets still have a month before the heat really builds up for the club, but trade talk has been dominant in call-in shows and water cooler babble.

At the center of the debate is the man wearing the “C”, Andrew Ladd. Ladd’s production is down from last year and in all likelihood he will not reach the final numbers he had in 2010-11. There are fans calling for his head, but he’s certainly not the guy to move. Remember – Ladd’s only been with the club for two years, and in both seasons has had a pretty significant change in the cast of characters surrounding him. Plus, he’s sealed up for a longer-term contract, so he’s not likely to move.

The biggest commodity that the Jets could, instead, try to ship around is Johnny Oduya. Oduya is a strong character defender and the kind of guy who could easily become a central part of a team’s leadership, especially on the blueline. Disregard the point totals (2-9-11 in 43 games), because he’s never hit the 30-point plateau.

Oduya, however, is a UFA next year, and the Jets have a pretty healthy stock of defencemen, both on the team and in development. His current $4 million-plus salary is one that the Jets will need to draw from as they attempt to re-sign Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec next year, both of whom are RFAs who aren’t likely to be left out in the cold for long, in addition to Paul Postma who is likely to be a permanent fixture on the blueline next year.

Ron Hainsey’s name is also likely to come up in trade talk as we get closer to the deadline. Though he’s been a scratch due to injuries, Hainsey is the kind of roleplayer who a team vying for a Cup may take interest in. He’s got one year left on his contract before becoming a UFA, and with a $3 million bill for next season, it’s a price many teams can easily absorb. Chevaldayoff, however, would definitely be looking for something very decent in return, and that may scare some teams away.

Of course, the inevitable lure will also be thrown out to Chris Mason, who is a UFA next year. The promise of more ice time with another squad could lure Mason away unless the Jets can propose a package contract to Mason, whereby he has the opportunity to join the team’s coaching or scouting staff at the end of his playing days, which, at 35, is not that far away.

As alluded to at the start of this piece, there might be a temptation to pull the trigger on a deal involving one of these players, especially given that the Jets are 4-6 in their last 10 games and dropped four of the last five decisions; there is, however, plenty of time left before Winnipeg has to worry about making personnel changes and still make the important decision whether to take a hard stab at making the playoffs or become sellers on deadline day.