Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trade Bait 2: Who will stay and who will go?

By: Tim "Bones" Bonnar

The trade deadline is fast approaching and the Jets have put together a nice little run of wins. This run has them on the cusp of the playoffs many people believe that this has changed their plan for the trade deadline, I ‘m not so sure. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has said all along that this team is building for the long term. I don’t think three wins has changed significantly changed his thought process.

Regardless of the Jets current playoff push (and potential run) Chevy already has a good idea who he will and won’t be looking to resign this offseason. As fans we have to remember there are many factors involved in these decisions and on ice performance isn’t the only one. The Jets management team must also consider who’s in the system and how close these players are to NHL ready.

I am of the opinion that the Jets should be sellers at the trade deadline and regardless of any playoff run, I truly believe Chevy is thinking the same way. Don Waddell did a number on this team and the Jets’ prospect pool is terribly shallow at just about every position. The lack of system depth makes me believe that the Jets will and should look at moving a few of their pending UFAs, regardless of any playoff push.

I do believe that Jets will be sellers at the deadline, but I do want to make one thing clear:

Being “sellers” does not mean the Jets are giving up hope on this season.

The Jets won’t be moving the core of the team at the deadline. The Jets will also not be moving players who are part of their long term plans. Let’s take a look at who the Jets may or may not sell at the deadline. First we’ll take a look at the offence.

Pending UFAs:

Jim Slater – Jets fans have fallen in love with Slater. He’s a gritty hard working player and the main cog in the GST line that has become a big time fan favourite. He’s a heart and soul guy, our best faceoff man, an effective penalty killer and has done an excellent job matching up against the opposition’s top players. Nobody wants to see him traded away at the deadline, but it is a possibility.
The same factors that have endeared Jim Slater to Jets fans make him a valuable commodity this time of year. A team looking to add grit, to help their penalty kill or to improve in the faceoff circle could find Slater very appealing. The Tampa Bay lightning recently sent Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for 2nd and 7th round picks. Jim Slater is a very similar player (albeit with less playoff experience and a little less scoring) and would likely net a similar return.
Will the Jets resign Jim Slater? As much as fans would like to see him stay, Slater may not be part of the Jets long term plan. He’s a pending UFA and unfortunately for him the Jets do have a few players in the system that could step into a similar role. Patrice Cormier projects as a similar player, he’s physical, he plays a two way game, he wins faceoffs and he is close to NHL ready. Aaron Gagnon and Ben Maxwell are other players who could be in play if Slater is moved.  I don’t believe Slater will be traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised or heartbroken if he is.

Tanner Glass -Tanner Glass in another key piece in the Jets very popular GST line. Like Jim Slater he’s a gritty hard working player who plays a shutdown role both at even strength and on the penalty kill. He’s the Jet’s leading hitter and he has chipped in a few points offensively.  Ideally you want Tanner Glass on your team’s 4th line, but the Jets haven’t had that luxury. The GST line has been playing a 3rd line role and whatever 3 forwards get placed below them instantly turn into a Bermuda Triangle of goals.
Glass gained some solid playoff experience during the Canucks cup run last season. His playoff experience could add some appeal at the deadline, but the reality is that Glass is a 4th line player on just about any playoff team. Teams won’t be fighting for him and they definitely wouldn’t give up much to do so. If he is traded I can’t see the Jets getting much more than a 4th round pick in return and that might not be enough for the team to let him go.
Will the Jets resign Tanner Glass? I think there’s a very good chance that Glass is back with the Jets next year. Kendal McArdel is probably the most similar player in the system and he doesn’t offer a defensive game near the level of Glass. Down the road it is possible the Jets look at giving a young centre like the aforementioned Cormier or Gagnon a spot on the 4th line wing, so it isn’t a lock, but I expect to see Glass back with the team next year.

Kyle Wellwood – Wellwood is possibly the most interesting Jet this season. He was a last minute pickup who has had a hard time finding a permanent job. The Jets signed him to a meager (by NHL standards) $700,000 contract for the season and he has produced at far higher than expected rates. Wellwood’s 36 points are good for third on the team. If you compare him to other right wingers around the league, Wellwood’s 36 points would rank him 29th in the league. In other words he has produced at a 1st line rate for $700,000. That is exceptional value!
I’m sure Wellwood’s production hasn’t gone unnoticed by other GMs. Teams that are looking to add some offensive punch to any of their top 3 lines or to their power play have to be looking at Kyle Wellwood. The fact that Wellwood can play any of the 3 forward positions undoubtedly adds to his value. If the Jets were to move Wellwood, he should net the team at least a 2nd round pick. That kind of return would have to be considered a win for management as they invested next to nothing in him. I’m not sure they should move him though.
Will the Jets resign Kyle Wellwood? I am leaning towards “Yes.”  The reality is that the Jets have nobody in the system that can match Wellwood’s production and the team is starved for offence.  Antropov, Mittens and Fehr are already on the roster and they have not been able to earn a permanent role in the top 6.  Outside of the current roster, Scheifele might be the Jets’ only prospect who will ever become a top 6 forward and we can’t assume he will be ready next season.

Free agency isn’t a great option either.
Food for thought:

The Buffalo Sabers signed 27 year old centre Ville Leino to a 6 year $27 million dollar deal.  Coming into this season Leino had recorded 30 goals and 43 assists in 149 games (.49 pts/game).

The Winnipeg Jets signed 28 year old centre Kyle Wellwood to a $700,000 dollar deal.  Coming into this season Wellwood had recorded 68 goals and 105 assists in 373 games (.46 pts/game).

Wellwood has more than doubled Leino’s production this year.

If Wellwood is interested in remaining with the Jets the team would be wise to resign him. A three or four year term would be perfect as he is only 28 years old and his versatility allows him to play pretty much anywhere in the top nine.

Tim Stapleton – Tim Stapleton has been a pleasant surprise and a great story this season.  Timmy is a 29 year old career AHLer who came into the season with 55 NHL games on his resume and 10 career points. He has almost doubled that production this season. He has shown definitively that he can play in this league and that he can help a team on the powerplay.  Stapleton’s 11 powerplay points are good for 3rd on the team and he has actually produced more powerplay points / minute than any player on the team. All that said I’m not sure there is a market for Stapleton at the deadline.
Will the Jets resign Tim Stapleton? I think there is a very good chance Stapleton rejoins the Jets next season. Noel is clearly a fan and he Stapleton’s versatility makes him pretty well and ideal 13h forward. Stapleton has played in 4 different positions and he has played on all 4 lines. There is a chance he doesn’t return in free agency, but I don’t think a trade is in play. Even if the Jets were to trade him there wouldn’t be much of a return.

Non UFAs
There are a few Jets players outside of the pending UFAs that could be in play at the deadline.

Nik Antropov – Nik is the target of all sorts of criticism. I am not as anti-Antro as most, but the reality is that he has been demoted to a 4th line role and thus he must be deemed expendable. He is the kind of veteran that could possibly help a contender, but I don’t think he will be going anywhere.  His $4+ million cap hit and near $5 million salary for next season will make him hard to move at the deadline.

Eric Fehr – Fehr has had an awful season and he has all but played himself out of a roster spot. I am not sure that the Jets or other GMs have completely written him off though. Bad luck has hit him as hard as bad play. Nobody has produced on the Jets 4th line and that is where he has spent most of the season.
 When Fehr is on the ice the team has scored on 2.24% of their shots. That isn’t all on him. I wouldn’t mind the Jets keeping him and giving him another season to prove himself, the bad luck cannot continue forever. Even Scott Gomez got rolling again.  I am not sure any team will make a play specifically for Fehr, but I could see a team asking for him as part of a deal.  He is still an asset.

Antti Miettinen – Mittens is not a regular on the Jets roster, but he is a smart two way player who can play on the powerplay or on the penalty kill. He isn’t likely to demand a big return, but he could be moved. Any team that wants to add veteran depth or needs a serviceable player to fill in for an injured regular could look at Mittens. He is signed through next season, but his $1.5 million salary likely isn’t enough to impact a trade.


  1. The Jets would be smart to keep Slater and Glass. Remember this team needs a solidified third line sometime in the future. The GST line is by no means at all a third line - they are the fourth line, playing on the "third line". If the Jets look to youth, players like Cormier, Gagnon, and others can fill that third line with youth and give them more scoring punch than the "fourth line" of the Jets provides right now.

    Great read!

    1. I agree, GST should be a 4th line. I would also like to see a youth movement in the bottom 6, but as things currently sit Antropov, Mittens and Thorburn will be back. We won't have room to bring anybody up if we resign Slater and Glass. That has to be considered.

      I have no clue why Mittens / Antropov / Fehr have not produced. In 2009 - 10 the trio tallied a combined:

      65 Goals
      83 Assists
      148 Points

      They SHOULD be a very solid third line. Possible that their styles, lack of speed don't fit the system.