Just like any NHL team over the past five years, the Winnipeg Jets have faced numerous trade scenarios, some of which they chose not to pursue. In this article, I will dive into four notable trade decisions that the Jets decided not to pursue or were turned down and analyze the outcome for each one. I will take into account both hindsight and the context of the exact time of the trade offer/rumour. The trades in question refer to acquiring Mark Stone in 2019, not being able to swing a deal involving Patrik Laine for Ivan Provorov, not paying the exuberant cost required for Mattias Ekholm, and not trading Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Montreal Canadiens for an underwhelming return.
Not Bringing the Local Kid Home to Win a Championship
Throughout the 2017-18 season, the Jets were a team on the cusp of winning it all. They successfully reached the Western Conference Final in an amazing run falling just short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. The very next season they entered the playoffs eager to repeat this success, only to fall to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues. It’s hard not to look back at that season and think Stone could have been the difference maker to get the Jets out of their 2018-19 funk and finally become cohesive as a unit.
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This is a very tough situation to grade because there are arguments to be made from both sides when looking back at it. The Jets’ decision not to acquire Stone in my opinion was a missed opportunity as he was and still is one of the league’s premier two-way forwards. However, the Jets were not lacking in offensive firepower and were loaded on the wings. They decided to make a move in shoring up their centre depth by acquiring Kevin Hayes. Unfortunately looking back it really seems like a missed opportunity for the team and the city of Winnipeg to win a Stanley Cup.
Once you take into account the cost of acquiring Stone according to Elliotte Friedman, it really seems like the Jets fumbled away a glorious opportunity. Yes, Stone probably would’ve been a pure rental but for the cost of top prospect Jack Roslovic (who completely busted as a Jet) and their late first-round draft pick, Kevin Cheveldayoff really dropped the ball here. I understand that top prospects rarely ever get traded in the NHL, but the Jets refused to even play Roslovic at centre while he was here, and the team was always actively looking to improve their centre depth. Who cares if Bryan Little is your second-line centre when you have five elite wingers in Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers and Stone on your team? One word that sums up this missed opportunity, is disappointing.
Philadelphia Doing the Jets a Favour
I know I was harsh on management above but not all missed trade opportunities ended up badly, as another intriguing trade scenario involved the Jets potentially trading Laine. He has established himself as one of the league’s premier goal scorers, but there were always concerns about his defensive game. The Jets were lacking depth on the back end and were distracted by Provorov’s size and ice time to see that he just wasn’t that good.
Thankfully the Jets didn’t make this trade, as the Philadelphia Flyers were the ones who said no. Laine continued to score goals and was eventually traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the other hand, Provorov remained with the Flyers, where he continued to develop a reputation as a minute-munching defenceman. The only problem was that in those big minutes, he wasn’t good nor a difference maker. In hindsight, the Jets dodged a bullet on the ice, as they didn’t have to take on his bloated contract and Josh Morrissey blossomed into a true number-one defenceman. Furthermore, Dylan Samberg seems to be destined to be a future top-four shutdown defenceman for the Jets.
The High Price Required for Ekholm
As previously mentioned, the Jets have a brief history of lacking depth on the back end. Therefore, they found themselves in trade rumours with the Nashville Predators regarding Ekholm. The reported trade proposal involved Mathieu Perreault, Ville Heinola, and a first-round pick heading to Nashville in exchange for Ekholm.
Ultimately the trade did not materialize, as the Jets baulked at the expensive price tag. In retrospect, this decision was neither good nor bad as at the time. Heinola looked like a future difference-maker on defence and that first-round draft pick ended up being Chaz Lucius (who seems like a decent bet to be a solid NHL player). However, seeing how the Jets have totally destroyed any chance of Heinola developing, I’m 50/50 on whether this decision was good or bad. Ekholm has also become even more dominant in playing top-pairing minutes with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Dubois Debacle
The most recent trade offer on this list involves the disgruntled centre who, according to every Canadiens fan on X (formerly known as Twitter), was heading home to Montreal for two pucks and a used water bottle. The decision not to trade Dubois to the Canadiens appears to be a wise one, as it allowed the Jets to create a bidding war and acquire three solid pieces in Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, and Rasmus Kupari plus a decent draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings.
More Wins Than Losses, But Stone Looms Large
In the world of professional sports, trade decisions are often a matter of calculated risk and future long-term planning. While some opportunities may be missed, the Jets have shown a willingness to prioritize their future and not make rash decisions. Only time will tell if these decisions will ultimately lead to success, but so far there have been a lot more hits than misses. However, the one move that got away seems to be the most significant,as I really think the Jets win the 2019 Stanley Cup with Stone inserted into that stacked roster. Cheveldayoff gets a lot of flack for his lack of activity as a general manager, but for the most part, he gets it right. This is because most of the big trades he hasn’t been able to make have helped the Jets become a better team when looking back in hindsight.