The Winnipeg Jets bolstered their bottom-six right-side forward depth by claiming Karson Kuhlman off waivers from the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.
Jets Thin on Right Wing Due to Injuries
The Jets’ right side has taken hit after hit this season. Most recently, Saku Maenalanen hit the LTIR with a shoulder injury he suffered against the St. Louis Blues, joining fellow right wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Mason Appleton on the shelf.
With none of the three due back until mid-January at the earliest, the need for another right winger could no longer be ignored. (Kuhlman is listed as a centre but has not taken a faceoff this season and only seven in his career.)
The 27-year-old Kuhlman played 14 games for the Kraken this season, registering one goal, two assists, and a 9:41 ATOI. He was in his second season with the club, as they initially claimed him off waivers from the Boston Bruins in January, 2022.
Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 185-pounds, Kuhlman was undrafted but has played 114-career NHL games since 2018-19 between the Kraken and Bruins, recording 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points and 21 penalty minutes.
His salary is not a concern as he’s on a one-year deal worth $825,000. The Athletic’s Murat Ates noted Tuesday the Jets have had interest in him in the past.
Kuhlman Joins “Minnesota Mafia”
General Kevin Cheveldayoff has a long history of acquiring Minnesotans, and Kuhlman is just the latest to hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
He has familiarity with three of his new Jets’ teammates as he played with Neal Pionk, Dylan Samberg, and Dominic Toninato (who is currently in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose) at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he spent four seasons between 2014 and 2018.
Kuhlman An New Option For Jets’ Fourth Line
The Jets’ fourth line has been in flux lately and head coach Rick Bowness was not happy with how they played against the Washington Capitals the day prior to the Kuhlman pickup. “They had two goals against and they’re not generating anything. We’re going to give it a different look,” he promised the day after a 5-2 loss.
Just a few hours after his comments, the bench boss was given another option at his disposal as a busy December continues.
Bowness wants the Jets to be stifling defensively and they decidedly have not been in their past two games: they allowed five goals to the Capitals and six goals to the Vegas Golden Knights in their most recent contest.
The fourth line against the Golden Knights saw Kevin Stenlund — playing centre in his Winnipeg Jets debut — flanked by David Gustafsson on the left and Sam Gagner on the right. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was a scratch while Jansen Harkins and Michael Eyssimont — two players who pulled fourth-line duty earlier this season — played up in the lineup.
Related: Jets’ Eyssimont Isn’t Going Back to the AHL Any Time Soon
Bowness said the fourth line line was “much better” against the Golden Knights than the Capitals, but no one should be feeling comfortable considering the team has lost two in a row for just the second time this season and has fallen out of first in the Central Division.
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Bowness admitted post-game Tuesday he’s not too familiar with Kuhlman, saying “I don’t know a whole lot about him. I hear great things about his skating and his compete and everything else. He’s not getting in until late (Wednesday) night so we’ll figure (out his role) as we go along.”
One thing we do know is that bottom-six competition will get a little hotter upon Kuhlman’s arrival. It isn’t a major acquisition, but a necessary one that bolsters team depth as they attempt to get back on track.