Since coming to the Winnipeg Jets late in 2015, Tyler Myers has endured his share of ups and downs. From his best offensive seasons since he was a rookie, to heartbreaking family health problems and injury troubles, he’s been through the good, the bad, and everything in between in Winnipeg.
While the Jets and their fans should have gratitude for Myers’ seasons of service on their blue line, and for being arguably the most stable piece of the Evander Kane trade, it’s time for his run in Winnipeg to end. His age, contract, and uninspiring advanced statistics all work against him, along with the young players on the rise in Manitoba of the AHL.
Some Jets fans will be cheering Myers out the door, based on the vitriol directed his way from some corners during the season. They should bear in mind that a defenseman who posts 30-plus points a year and plays over 19 minutes a night is not easily replaced. But for the Jets, it’s either replace him now, or when his next contract expires, whenever that is.
At 6-foot-8 and reasonably mobile, there’s a lot to like about Myers. His point production, the best of his career since he entered the NHL, also works in his favor. As Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his 31 thoughts, there’s some mutual will to get Myers back in Jets colors. But can the Jets afford him? Or, rather, should they?
Myers Will Hit Paydirt
The July 1 silly season leads to wild overpayments galore, and if he were to go to unrestricted free agency, we might see one for the ages with Myers. As it stands, he’s making a $5.5 million salary the Jets can ill afford. If he commands anywhere near that, he’s priced himself out of the Jets’ range.
And why shouldn’t Myers go after the most possible money? NHL careers are fleeting, and the big defenseman has learned that hard way that health can turn on a dime. He’s approaching
Myers pursuing his market value would likely leave him out of the Jets signing range, however. The Jets impending salary cap crunch is well documented. They need every available dollar, and that’s going to leave them with some tough decisions.
This had led pundits covering other NHL teams, namely the Vancouver Canucks, to take a long look at Myers. Some are speculating openly about what he could bring to their blueline.
Canucks observers aren’t the only ones, as the Florida Panthers have also come up. Some pundits, like Mr. Hirsch above, seem gleeful at the idea. Others, however, are cautioning the Canucks away.
One could list similar reasons why the Jets should stay away themselves, but whatever your thoughts on Myers’ on-ice play are, the off-ice complications alone are reason enough for the Jets to look elsewhere. As we’ve discussed in this space, it’s time for the Jets to start trusting their young players more, so perhaps the answer should come from within.
Give Tucker Poolman a Chance
This author has long been a proponent of Jets prospect Tucker Poolman. His body of work in an NHL call-up in 2017-18 seemed to merit more responsibility, and but for some injury troubles this season, he might’ve gotten it.
Poolman and Sami Niku are both overdue for more responsibility. During his call-up this season, Niku probably deserved power play time but never did get it. Myers was a big part of the reason why as he was a permanent fixture on the second power-play unit.
The nature of the Jets strong drafting over the years is that there will be a steady stream of players who “deserve more time” but as the Chicago Blackhawks found out, it’s integrating those players into the lineup that allows you to stay a half-step ahead of the cap crunch. And while the Jets have yet to reach the Hawks level of dominance, their cap crunch is just over the next hill.
The ideal situation for the Jets would be to re-sign Jacob Trouba long-term, allowing he and Dustin Byfuglien to take on the lion’s share of the work next year and shelter Poolman and/or Niku in carefully picked minutes, building their confidence until they’re ready for more ice time. If re-signing Trouba proves impossible, however, the Jets right side suddenly looks a lot thinner.
That’s when the Jets will be tempted to bank on Myers. He’s a known commodity and may even be willing to take a hometown discount for a team he seems to want to stay with. For the Jets, however, the fit isn’t there right now.
It’s odd to see the Kane-Myers trade come to this just four seasons later. Kane left the Sabres for a fairly slight return, and Zach Bogosian may leave them for nothing in the offseason. Meanwhile, Drew Stafford has already left the Jets and Brendan Lemieux was traded for what may amount to a month and a half of Kevin Hayes. Myers and Jack Roslovic are the only remaining pieces from the trade.
For the Jets, however, it’s time to move on from the last major piece (at the time, anyway) of the trade. Myers’ time with the Jets has been at times enjoyable, at times maddening, and never boring. One can only wish him the best of success with his team in 2019-20 — that team should not be the Jets.