Winnipeg – There are internal candidates Discussed and discussed, But what if Winnipeg Jets decides to look outside the company to meet the need for a second-row hub?
With three weeks to go before the free agency opens and there are already deals, you can expect Jets to be active in exploring both markets as General Manager Kevin Cheveldeauf looks to improve his list.
Whether Jets will end up shopping and banking Windows with their own guys – a group consisting of Andrew Cope, Blake Wheeler or Jack Roslovic – will also be kicking tires.
Last week, the Central Division made a deal to improve the depth between the rivals because Minnesota Wild Pixberg signed with the Penguins for Nick Bugstad.
It was a low-risk deal for Wild GM Bill Gurin, who sacrificed only a conditional seventh-round pick for a player who played for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, a first-round pick in 2010 (19th overall pick by the Florida Panthers) and 97 career-highs in 2014-15 Including 24) and scored 207 points in 437 NHL games.
Sure, his production has dropped drastically in the last two seasons, but some of them are related to injuries. No matter how things turn out, Wild is gaining an axis of size and skill at a low cost. The Penguins need some salary cap relief and every dollar is going to count for them, even if they retain a portion of the Bugstad salary.
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The Jets are one of the few NHL teams to enter the off-season frenzy with cap space and it will not be long before Chevelle Diaf plans to use it.
Since the franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets have seen their depth upgrade between the two scenarios.
Back in 2012, Ollie Jokinen signed a two-year deal worth $ 9 million to make the slot behind Bryan Little.
Although Jokinen was not as productive as expected (25 goals and 57 points in 127 games), his arrival at the scene confirmed that Jets did not need to rush the Skyfile to the NHL.
Plus, Jokinen was able to work as a consultant for Skyfile to stay on the team for the 2013-14 season.
In 2014, after Anaheim Ducks chose not to give him a qualifying offer, Jets was able to land Matthew Perrault on a three-year deal for $ 9 million.
Perrault was the third-line center at the time, but the ducks were in Cap Crunch and there was no risk of going to mediation, so they allowed him to walk.
It could be argued that Perrault was one of the best free-agent signatures made by the Jets under Cheveldeauf’s watch.
His time at center was limited – partly to back pain, but proved to be more effective on the Perrault wing – but he has scored 79 goals and 211 points in 399 games since joining the Jets.
Cheveldoff suggested during his off-season availability that there may be players available due to similar circumstances this off-season, but only time will tell who will fall into that category.
With all of this in mind, here are seven centers that can stay on Jets Radar as you search for market space for a second-row pivot:
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning
Height: Six feet
Weight: 193 lbs
2019-20 Statistics: 63 GP, 16 G, 28 A, 44 P, 113 SOG, 18:28 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 168 GP, 40 G, 54 A, 94 P, 262 SOG, 16:08 TOI
Contract Status: RFA pending (season 935,833 AAV last season in last year of entry level agreement)
Thinner: We spent a lot of time discussing the possibility of chewing gum for fences and chasing Cirelli is definitely worth it – especially if it comes in the form of an offer sheet. Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Barclays Gudro, among others, are in need of new contracts and the lightning salary is going to be in the cap bind. With Briden Point and Steven Stankos occupying the top two positions on the depth chart, Cirelli is a luxury item with a third consecutive center. He is an excellent two-way player who is already on the radar for the Selke Trophy and has been used at times with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat when dealing with a point injury.
Unless Cirelli opts for a shorter bridge deal than the market with Lightning, he is a player that many GMs could see as an offer sheet target. Of course, offer sheets are rare, but these are different times, so everything is on the table. For the occasion, before Sebastian Aho signed with the Montreal Canadians last summer, the latter was given to Ryan O’Reilly of Colorado Avalanche by the Calgary Flames in 2013. The last successful offer sheet was Edmonton Oilers’ Dustin Penner in 2007 when he signed a five-year deal worth 21 21.5 million and decided the Anaheim ducks were no match.
If the offer sheet is not off the road, Chevelldoff may also continue to trade to Jets Sirelli, depending on the number of picks the company has to give up if it is interested in going downhill.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Height: Five feet eight
Weight: 183 lbs
2019-20 totals: 65 GP, 14 G, 17 A, 31 P, 113 SOG, 14:33 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 534 GP, 153 G, 186 A, 339 P, 1,154 SOG, 16:59 GOI
Contract Status: $ 5 million AAV by 2023-24
Thinner: If Lightning GM Julian Brycebois chooses to stick to Cirelli (which surprises anyone), he will probably have to move one of his versatile guys and become Johnson’s candidate – though he has no full-motion clause this summer and will have to sign on to any trade.
All he could do in the Jets was move forward with amazing vision, he could even create shots for himself. Johnson uses Patrick Line, Nicolas Ehlers or anyone with him. He can play three forward positions and he can play a good game even if he is not big on stature. His snow time and production have dwindled this season, so he could welcome the opportunity to play top-six minutes again. Johnson will also bring cost accuracy as he is under contract for $ 5 million over the next four seasons.
Philip Donald, Montreal Canadians
Height: One of six feet
Weight: 185 lbs
2019-20 totals: 71 GP, 13 G, 34 A, 47 P, 131 SOG, 18:51 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 339 GP, 50 G, 125 A, 175 P, 564 SOG, 16:29 GOI
Contract Status: 8 3.08 million until 2020-21, followed by the pending UFA
Thinner: There are plenty of conspiracies around Canadians and what they can do this summer. GM Mark Bergewin is armed with plenty of draft picks and the team feels good for showing up in the qualifier against the Penguins and the playoff round against the Philadelphia Flyers. But with the emergence of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkamini, Donald can find himself in the third row, a checking character – and that’s something he’s not interested in – not after anchoring the top line for most of the last two-plus seasons.
Donald is not a big point producer (his career-high is 13 goals and 53 points), but he also improves his line-mates by cooperating as a play driver and responsible defensive player. How much will the acquisition cost and what will be Donald’s next deal? These are just two obstacles for the Jets right now. But according to his age and skill set, Donald is worth continuing – until he comes to an agreement with a window to take care of the extension.
Eric Howla, Florida Panthers
Height: Six feet
Weight: 193 lbs
2019-20 totals: 48 GP, 12 G, 12 A, 24 P, 92 SOG, 15:50 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 405 GP, 85 G, 90 A, 175 P, 674 SOG, 13:54 TOI
Contract Status: UFA pending (last season 75 2.75 AAV)
Thinner: From his time with the Wild and the Golden Knights in the Central Division the Jets have advanced rapidly to the Finnish. Although he is best known for his inspection ability, he has had some offensive knocks – a career-high of 29 goals and 55 points for Vegas in the 2017-18 campaign. He gives a big incentive to kill a penalty and has the ability to be effective when the lineup is playing up and down. It could be a cost-effective move that would allow jets to use a little more money to boost defense forces.
Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers
Age: 21 (September 19 22)
Height: Six feet two
Weight: 198 lbs
2019-20 totals: Did not play
Career NHL Totals: 145 GP, 26 G, 35 A, 61 P, 242 SOG, 14:24 TOI
Contract Status: Limited Free Agent (25 925,000 cap hit and 75 3.575 AAV with bonuses last season)
Thinner: Winnie the Pooh and former Brandon Wheat Kings standout have been plagued with migraine disorder all season and he has also dealt with concussions throughout his young career. Things did not go smoothly for the second overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, but when healthy, he has the potential to be a key contributor.
He can certainly realize the opportunity to skate alongside two of the most talented wingers in the Jets, no less on his own reel. Flyers Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes occupied the first two center spots, so a change of scenario would benefit both parties. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher did not draft Patrick and has been in contact with the Jets roster since the time he was with Wild. So, maybe there is a deal.
Paul Stastney, Golden Knights of Vegas
Age: 34 (December 27 at 35)
Height: Six feet
Weight: 193 lbs
2019-20 totals: 71 GP, 17 G, 21 A, 38 P, 136 SOG, 17:08 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 945 GP, 250 G, 476 A, 726 P, 2,004 SOG, 19:04 TOI
Contract Status: From 2020-21 .5 6.5 million AAV, then UFA is pending
Thinner: Speaking of cap crunches, the Golden Knights have their own, especially if Robin Lehner sticks around. Since Cody Glass is ready for a second-line center role, it will be very difficult for Vegas to have Stastney in the third unit.
As the two played together in Germany during the lockout in 2013, Stastney could be reunited with Line and Ehlers or used with Captain Blake Wheeler if a deal is struck with the Jets. Stastny has an unchanging trade agreement, but he has agreed to trade with the Jets once and maybe he will do it again. The Jets have not been able to fully replace Stastney since he left after the 2018 expiration deal, so it may be worth the shot. With the system, the coaching staff and a lot of players, Stastney knew him well and was determined to capture the Stanley Cup. He has 96 games of playoff experience (25 goals, eight game-winners and 66 points), a welcome to a team looking to be back in the team after two early exits since his departure for Vegas.
Derrick Brassard, New York Islanders
Height: One of six feet
Weight: 202 lbs
2019-20 totals: 66 GP, 10 G, 22 A, 32 P, 110 SOG, 13:42 TOI
Career NHL Totals: 852 GP, 186 G, 297 A, 483 P, 1,714 SOG, 16:10 TOI
Contract Status: UFA pending (1.2 million AAV last season)
Thinner: Brassard was actually the starting target for the Jets during the 2018 NHL trade deadline before Stastney became available. That year Brassard moved to the Penguins instead, with the Golden Knights offering some salary-cap relief and also getting Ryan Reeves on the deal.
Brassard has been used in a more complementary role since that time, but still has the vision and skill to consider – even though his production has dropped along with his ice time. Chemistry can do wonders for production and even if it doesn’t work in a top-six role, Brassard has shown that he can chip in a role that Barry Trotz checks for the islanders. A one-year contract is worth investigating.
While the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft featured big games, he conceded 25 goals (including five game-winners) and 68 points in 116 career playoff games to the conference final four times and to Stanley. Once the cup final – so far.