Deadline Decisions: Jets eye quick turnaround from lost season

NHL insider Nick Kypreos says Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff got the best possible out of a tough Andrew Ladd situation, in fact NHL insider Elliotte Friedman says Marko Dano might actually flourish in Winnipeg.

Between now and Feb. 29, sportsnet.ca will be taking an in-depth look at teams and the decisions facing them leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. Today: Winnipeg Jets.

General Manager: Kevin Cheveldayoff

Pending UFAs: Adam Pardy, Grant Clitsome

2016 Draft Picks: 1st (Wpg), (Chi), 2nd (Wpg), 4th (Wpg), 5th (Wpg), 6th (Wpg) 7th (Wpg)

No-move or No-trade clauses: Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien (NMC), Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart (NTC)

Cap space on deadline day: $57,244,090

Team Mode: Sell, bounce back quickly

Numbers courtesy General Fanager.

In addition to disappointing the fan base, the Winnipeg Jets’ losing ways also ensured one of two key cogs—both of whom entered this season on the final year of a contract—would likely move before the trade deadline.

When defenceman Dustin Byfuglien signed a five-year, $38-million extension earlier this month, it became clear that cog was captain Andrew Ladd.

If the Jets were on target for a repeat showing of last year, when the club nabbed the final playoff spot in the West, there’s a good chance Byfuglien and Ladd would have both been in Winnipeg at least through the remainder of the season. But as it stands, with the team nowhere near the post-season race, Ladd—whose contract negotiations with the organization never gathered enough steam—had to go.

Conventional wisdom at the start of the year seemed to be that the Jets would do well to keep one of those players, with the smart money landing on Ladd. So, in a sense, Winnipeg fans should be happy ‘Big Buff’—the more impactful player—is the one who’ll be in the fold for years to come.

That said, losing Ladd—the face of NHL hockey’s return to Winnipeg—hurts. As a six-foot-three left winger capable of scoring at a 25-goal pace, Ladd, 30, is poised to help the first line of his new/old team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

In landing Marko Dano—who was part of last summer’s trade that sent former Blackhawk Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets—Winnipeg has found a player who could potentially help the team’s top-nine forward group very soon. That was key because, though the first-round pick is nice, the Jets can only ride the good will last year’s unexpected playoff berth created for so long. Cheveldayoff needs to move the team forward next season, meaning one of the team’s two first-rounders could be in play at the draft.

In that vein, there have been some questions about whether the Jets would consider moving young defencmean Jacob Trouba before he becomes a 22-year-old RFA this summer. While Trouba hasn’t made the jump many expected in his third season, it’s very difficult to see Winnipeg severing ties. The only scenario where it could make sense is if the team can swing a deal for Manitoba boy and right-shot defenceman Travis Hamonic, who has asked the New York Islanders to move him west for personal reasons.

Still, it’s an extreme long shot that there’s any action on the Trouba front—or the Hamonic one, for that matter—in the next couple days.

In the meantime, Cheveldayoff and his staff can set about figuring out who their next captain will be.