In this edition of Winnipeg Jets News & Rumors, I’ll try to keep Jets’ fans up to date about what’s happening within the organization. First, I’ll take a look at how two Jets prospects are doing. Second, I’ll take a look at recent Patrick Laine trade rumors. The Philadelphia Flyers were interested in the Winnipeg forward; but, has that interest cooled?
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Finally, I’ll take a look at returning Jets’ player Paul Stastny and speculate about how effective he might be able to be for the team at the age of 35.
Item One: Winnipeg’s Top Prospect? Ville Heinola
A recent article by Tim Campbell of NHL.com ranked Ville Heinola as the Jets’ top prospect. Assistant general manager Craig Heisinger noted that Heinola’s “best assets are his hockey sense and his puck game.”
Heisinger added that Heinola “set the bar pretty high last season, and I’m not sure he has any way to meet those expectations immediately. We’re looking forward to seeing him in the World Junior because playing games on North American (sized) ice under a forecheck will be good for him.”
During the 2019-20 season, Heinola played eight games with the Jets and scored a goal and five points. Campbell thinks the 19-year-old left-shot defenseman has what it takes to break into the Jets’ roster as early as this coming season. Jets’ fans will have a chance to see Heinola in action when he represents Team Finland during the World Junior Hockey Championships starting on Christmas Day in Edmonton.
Item Two: Goalie Mikhail Berdin Signs Two-Year Contract Extension with Jets
Young Russian goalie Mikhail Berdin recently signed a two-year contract extension with Winnipeg. The contract calls for him to be paid $750,000 if he plays in the NHL and $70,000 if he plays for the Manitoba Moose. In 42 games last season with the Moose, his record was 20-21-1, with a goals-against-average of 2.89 and a save percentage of .910.
As Berdin moves ahead through the Jets’ organization, during the 2021-22 season his contract will be a two-way deal; however, it will become a one-way deal in the 2022-23 campaign.
Item Three: Has the Philadelphia Flyers’ Interest in Patrik Laine Cooled?
NBC Sports has affirmed the Jets had trade talks about Patrik Laine but reported that those discussions have cooled. However, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that trade talks might start up again as both teams move closer to the season. That said, it looks like a pretty good bet that Laine will start the season with Winnipeg.
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As early as October, Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff suggested Laine could be traded; however, he noted that the Jets would only trade him if they could get a solid return that they’d be happy with. Laine certainly isn’t lacking skill. However, although he’s already a great forward, he could become an elite one. So far, he hasn’t and that concerns some Winnipeg fans.
All this trade conversation makes Laine’s future in Winnipeg uncertain. Furthermore, the Jets haven’t extended his contract yet and he’s going into the last season of a two-year, $13.5 million contract. Should he stay with the Jets through the 2020-21 season, he’ll become a restricted free agent after that.
Item Four: How Good Can Paul Stastny Be in 2020-21?
In a move that made total sense (as in dollars and sense) from a Vegas Golden Knights point of view, early in October the Jets re-acquired Paul Stastny from the Golden Knights. The Jets gave up virtually nothing for Stastny – only 25-year-old Swedish depth-defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Golden Knights simply needed to clear salary-cap space after they signed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Something had to give to pay Pietrangelo and in this case it was Stastny.
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It’s Stastny’s second time playing for the Jets. During the playoff run with Winnipeg in 2017-18, Stastny scored 13 points in 19 games Jets after coming from the St. Louis Blues. That season, the Jets went deep into the playoffs where they ironically lost in the Western Conference Finals to the same Golden Knights Stastny played for most recently.
Stastny carries a $6.5 million salary-cap hit and he’s playing on an expiring contract. For Jets’ fans, the question is: “Can Stastny have an impact on the Jets’ roster?” He’ll be 35 years old when the season begins, and fans have to wonder how many points he could actually score for the team.
Although age might be creeping up for Stastny, he still has better than average scoring skills; and, if he plays with the right people – could he play with Nikolaj Ehlers and Laine, for example – he might regain the form he showed two seasons ago. But can he stand up to the grind this season is likely to bring because of a condensed schedule?
Time will tell, but smart money suggests Stastny might approach 40 points in a proposed 56-game schedule. The Jets would find that acceptable, no doubt.
What’s Next for the Jets?
The 56-game schedule might play havoc with predicting how teams and players will perform. One player who’s becoming an elite scorer is the Jet’s Kyle Connor. He’s reached the 30-goal mark three straight seasons. Can he make it a fourth in a season where he’ll likely play 20 fewer games?
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Should the season actually get underway, there will be some interesting things to watch. For me, Connor’s chase after 30 goals is one of them.