Less than a week until the trade deadline and two more Canadian teams were active on the market.
On Saturday, the Winnipeg Jets made a move to add 20-plus goal man with size Nino Niederreiter, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He immediately becomes a winger who could be deployed on the top line, or potentially a little further down the lineup to help spread out the offence. But by surrendering only a second-round pick in 2024, the Jets still have ample assets and cap space available to make another notable splash before Friday’s deadline.
Meantime, the Vancouver Canucks were busy again, buying into the potential of 23-year-old Vitali Kravtsov, the ninth overall pick of the draft just five years ago. A pending RFA, Kravtsov was in need of a fresh start after bouncing back and forth between the Rangers and Russia the past couple of years, but will the Canucks help him reach his potential?
And what is that potential today?
For more on what the Jets get in Niederrieter, and the Canucks get in Kravtsov, we turn to our scout, Jason Bukala.
To Vancouver: Vitali Kravtsov
To NY Rangers: Will Lockwood, 2026 seventh-round pick
Note: Lockwood has spent the majority of his career at the minor league level. He adds some depth to the Rangers minor league system and is a pending RFA this summer.
Once Upon a time
As I prepared for the 2018 entry draft, I personally tracked Vitali Kravtsov in Europe. He was playing in the Chelyabinsk system, mostly at the VHL (second division) and KHL levels.
There were nights he skated less than 10 minutes at the KHL level, but it was clear he had upside in a variety of categories.
He had size (6-foot-3, 180 pounds), moved well, displayed a sound understanding of how to position himself defensively, a quick release in scoring areas, and some power in the trenches along the boards.
Kravtsov scored four goals and three assists in the regular season playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk, but took his game to an entire new level in playoffs, scoring six goals and five assists. It was then that he solidified himself as a top 15, and more likely top 10, pick for the draft.
At worst I projected him as a middle-six NHL forward who would provide a second layer of scoring. At best I believed he could contribute on the second line and have an impact on the power play. I felt he was more of a two-way forward than he was pure offence.
Start, Stop, Start
By now, we all know Kravtsov’s development has not been a smooth ride. He’s bounced between the NHL, AHL, NHL, KHL, and back to the NHL since (2018). There are a variety of reasons why his journey has been disjointed to date. This isn’t the time, or space, to overanalyze those reasons.
It’s time to eliminate all of the previous noise around Kravtsov’s impact within the Rangers system. He needs a fresh start and he’s getting one in Vancouver. He has to wipe his mind clean of any distractions from the past and get dialed in for this new challenge with the Canucks.
• This deal is good for both the Rangers and Canucks.
• The Canucks get a chance to develop a former first-round pick who is still only 23 years young.
• The Rangers relieve themselves of some cap dollars as they try to make other trades before the March 3 deadline.
• Kravtsov is a pending RFA this summer. He is due a qualifying offer of $840,000.
To Winnipeg: Nino Niederreiter
To Nashville: Second-round pick in 2024
The Jets add to their top-nine forward group with Niederreiter. The veteran forward adds more size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) and another layer of scoring to the Jets lineup. He’s a solid skater who also plays a heavy game along the wall and around the crease. He will finish his hits regularly, and work to push opponents off the play.
He had 115 hits in Nashville, which immediately slots him second on the Jets behind Adam Lowry (128). Niederreiter doesn’t penalty kill. He averaged 16 minutes of ice time in Nashville, with all of those minutes coming at even strength and on the power play. I describe his defensive zone attention to detail as average.
Here’s a look at Niederreiter’s 2022-23 stats in Nashville:
The Jets add a player with term left on his contract — Neiderreiter’s deal runs through the 2023-24 season with a $4 million cap hit. He’ll become UFA eligible in the summer of 2024.
Available Deadline Cap Space and Draft Capital
The Jets currently have $4.6 million available to use at the deadline. So there is room to still add.
Here’s a look at the Jets’ draft grid over the next three years:
This trade allows the Jets flexibility to add another piece to their roster in the coming days. The cost associated with adding Niederreiter, a 20-plus goal scorer, to their lineup is reasonable. This move adds depth to Winnipeg’s group without subtracting a player from the roster.
The Jets improve their team with the acquisition of Nino Niederreiter.