Nathan Beaulieu’s pain may be the Winnipeg Jets’ gain at the Trade Deadline.
Beaulieu Out for Season After Shoulder Surgery
The Jets’ rugged defender had — unbeknownst to most —been playing this season with a torn labrum ( the labrum is cup-shaped rim of cartilage that lines and reinforces the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder.)
He had surgery on April 1 to get it fixed. The rehab process is long, with head coach Paul Maurice ruling him out for the entirety of the playoffs.
Beaulieu hadn’t played since March 9 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when he suffered broken bone after taking a John Tavares shot to the hand.
Beaulieu struggled mightily in 25 games this season. While a tough-as-nails character with a big heart, he wasn’t getting it done on the ice. He recorded one assist and 20 penalty minutes while posting a minus-5 rating and poor possession numbers. He’s never been a true shutdown defender, but the shoulder injury undoubtedly hampered his play further.
This is the second-straight write-off season for Beaulieu. Last season, he suffered a number of injuries and was limited to 38 games.
The Jets signed him to a two-year deal last October anyway, but it’s tough to see where he’ll fit in next season with the emergence of Logan Stanley and top prospects Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg another year older and more experienced.
Moving Beaulieu to Long-Term Injured Reserve Opens Up Trade Possibilities
As The Athletic’s Murat Ates notes below, moving Beaulieu’s contract to the LTIR would give the Jets an additional $1.25 million in cap relief. That money would be added to a roughly $3.5 million pool as Bryan Little is also on LTIR since sustaining a serious head and ear injury in November 2019 after taking a Nikolaj Ehlers slap shot to the head.
This additional cap space makes the possibility of deal prior to the April 12 Trade Deadline much more intriguing.
How Could the Extra Cash Help the Jets?
The Jets are set up front, with their forward depth at an all-time best. Any trade they would make would be to bolster their back end for the final 18 games of the regular season and a potential playoff run.
Recently, THW’s own Isaiah Wagner took a look at three potential trade targets: the Nashville Predators’ Mattias Ekholm, the Anaheim Ducks’ Josh Mason, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard.
With Beaulieu on the LTIR, the Jets could take on all three players’ full salaries without moving any money out, which they couldn’t do before.
It just goes to show how valuable every dollar is in the flat-cap era — even a paltry $1.25 million extra against an $82.5 million dollar cap could mean the difference between making a deal and standing pat.
Ekholm is the biggest fish, but the Predators’ ask will be high (it is reported they want a first round pick, an elite prospect, and a third asset for the 30-year-old Swede) as their recent strong play has them back in the Central-Division postseason hunt.
The Jets could take on Manson’s or Savard’s entire contracts now as well (Manson’s AAV is $4.45 million while Savard’s is $4.25 million.)
Trading for Ekholm or Manson would be more complicated —money-movement wise and Expansion Draft protection-list wise — as they both have one season left on their deals after this season, and Beaulieu will still be with the team next season.
Savard is a pending UFA, and would be easier to have as a straight rental.
Trade Not Guaranteed, But Likelihood is Increasing
While it’s no guarantee the Jets will end up making a trade — or that they won’t end up moving money out with players they send their trade partner in return — the potential for cap relief would make it easier to get something done.
This is in addition to the good news on the trade front received on March 26. That day, it was announced the Canadian Government will allow the quarantine requirement for players entering Canada from the U.S. to be cut in half to seven days from 14.
These two developments make the Jets a team to watch in the coming days, and make GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s life a little more interesting as he ponders which of the three players — or someone else “off the board” — would best complement his team’s contingency of defensemen.