One of the bigger surprises of the 2014-2015 NHL season thus far has been the play of the Winnipeg Jets.
After getting off to a bit of a rocky start, the Jets turned their fortunes around by playing a complete team hockey game and taking on the identity and personality of their head coach, Paul Maurice. The team hasn’t lost more than two games in a row since an early-season four game skid, and finds itself sitting tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for third in the Central Division with 58 points as of January 19.
But just what players, or what type of players, should the Jets be looking for, and how should the team address the organization’s future as the March 2 NHL trade deadline approaches?
It’s no secret that Cheveldayoff would like to add more pieces up front, but he also has to be aware of the team’s cap situation with players like Andrew Ladd, Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien needing new deals in the near future.
Cheveldayoff has to be careful not to take on a big contract just to get burned in the end. That being said, it’s highly unlikely that someone like the Jets GM would even consider taking on a bigger contract unless the player was worth it, and one of the expiring players was sent the other way.
For this season, Winnipeg should focus on bringing in players that are either in the final year or have just one year left on their contracts. The type of flexibility that offers is something that most GMs covet.
Players like Antoine Vermette and Jaromir Jagr have been the talk of trade rumors for months now, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of slowing down. For the Jets, players like those two could be excellent options to bring into a team looking to get to the playoffs for the first time since returning to Manitoba.
Bringing in someone like Vermette, who just happens to beat Arizona’s leading scorer with 11 goals and 19 assists, would add a playmaking, speedy forward that could provide the Jets with a major offensive boost now that he would be more motivated and have something to play for. Plus, with a contract expiring at the end of the season, the Jets could likely only have to give up pieces that wouldn’t really hurt them in the end. Cheveldayoff would also have first chance to re-sign the 32 year-old, which could help build the Jets towards the future. If no deal reached, then he’ll have no issue trading his rights come the NHL Draft.
In the case of Jagr, the Jets could certainly use a player who’s been to the big dance multiple times, and can be that true veteran leader that a team like Winnipeg could definitely use. Besides it’s not like, at age 43, he’s appearing to slow down in the slightest way. After all, he does lead the New Jersey Devils in points with 25 as of this writing. Bringing in a player of Jagr’s stature could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that’s never really tasted much success in its history.
There’s still plenty of time and quite a few games to go until the trade deadline, which gives Cheveldayoff a little while to get his ducks in a row, but going after players like Vermette and/or Jagr could turn the Jets from a flash in the pan team to one that could make a nice run come April.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.