By all accounts, the Winnipeg Jets are putting together a decent season. Not spectacular by any stretch, but decent. Currently sitting with 12 games played, 7 wins, and 15 points in the western conference a very tough central division. Most recently the team experienced a bit of a meltdown at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. These games happen to every team in the league, even the best ones.
But, it’s all in the bounce back. The Jets blew up and lost against the New York Islanders in the 3rd game this season, but came back strong and won against the New York Rangers the night after. Adversity builds character, or so they say. Sometimes it builds a greater chance to garner a greater reward. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers, who have previously won several draft lotteries.
The Jets are still without the renewed contracts of their two top UFAs, captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. All is quiet in all camps. Not a peep. Ladd has taken the notion that he doesn’t want to have his contract negotiation take away from his focus on the season.
Coming off his recent sports hernia surgery, Ladd will be celebrating his 30th birthday in December, and wants a long-term contract in the neighborhood of 6 years at 6 million plus per year. The captain wants his money and security, and I would have to say that so far, he is earning a good long look at being resigned.
Whomever’s reasoning you believe behind Ladd’s negotiation strategy, you know full well that if the club decides to throw money at Ladd during the season, he’d be take a look at it. The Jets have to look at it during the season. If not, time could run out. The city and Twitterverse, for all those that follow Winnipeg, would make the internet explode if he left without an asset coming back in our direction (see Micheal Frolik). But do they give in and give him term and dollars knowing that his game is in decline, but not his leadership?
As for Byfuglien, he’s been the trade talk rumor fodder for as long as I can remember. Dustin for this; Byfuglien for that. Big Buff will be 31 in March, and is coming off a contract paying him just over 5 million per year.
Byfuglien is dynamic, plays defense along with the role of utility winger. At 6’5″ and 260 lbs, he’s very tough to move when in front of the net. He’s skates very well, can hit like a freight train. Floats like a butterfly, and stings like a bee (Thank you Muhammad Ali!).
Again, the Jets are faced with the dilemma of resigning the big man for big bucks and term, or let him walk. Trading both Ladd and Byfuglien prior to the deadline is also an option, but in the world of salary caps and shrinking space, letting assets go for non-guaranteed contracts is a bit unnerving, even for the most steadfast general manager.
Enter Auston Matthews. The next great phenom who is playing in the Swiss league, is all but guaranteed to go #1 at the NHL draft this coming June. The Arizona born 18-year-old has gained a lot of press and attention, popping 10 goals and 17 points in 14 games. He’s NHL ready, with the smarts and the maturity to go along with it.
Now, in no way am I implying that this is a rumor. I didn’t hear it from a guy, who heard it from the janitor, who heard it from the security guard who had his ear pressed to the meeting room door, that this is a 10% maybe. It’s s simply a proposal, written by me, a guy on the outside looking in, to what his favorite NHL club would need, in the immediate and in the future, with similarities to the Evander Kane trade.
Like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, a re-signed Ladd, a re-signed Byfuglien, and picks could be traded to the team who secures the rights for the #1 at the 2016 draft/Matthews, along with players and picks. It’s certainly worth the due diligence and consideration, especially when the youth movement is in full swing in Winnipeg.