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Hainsey, Antropov: Too good to trade?

Jets have realistic playoff shot and Hainsey's solid play makes him almost indispensable; Antro's been pretty good as well

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Ron Hainsey's play may have priced him right out of the trade market.

Hainsey has long been seen as a player Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might peddle at the deadline, but a number of factors are beginning to make such a deal less likely.

To a slightly lesser degree, the same can be said for Nik Antropov.

Both veteran players are unrestricted free agents this summer and Cheveldayoff likely had plans to try and grab draft picks in exchange for both prior to the trade deadline.

But a GM's plans are always subject to his team's position in the standings. If the Jets are holding down third spot in the conference on deadline day, will he be a buyer or a seller?

"Yes. I would be one of those," laughed Cheveldayoff. "It's an interesting time. I think the real dynamics that come in to play are the potential ramifications of the cap going down next year. I think the traditional buying and selling will occur, but there could be some deals that have long-ranging effects."

Cheveldayoff has to consider the optics of trading veteran players while having a legitimate chance of finishing third in the conference and having home-ice advantage in a playoff series against a low seed.

"I'm not so worried about third or not. If we get into the playoffs, then we deserve to get in there. Third or sixth or eighth or fifth, it would be a great opportunity for our young players to go to the playoffs," said Cheveldayoff. "That's obviously what you are trying to do. Now, you don't sell the farm to do it, but in the same breath you don't sit here and look at the opportunity and say, 'nah, we'll wait until next year.' You take what you can get and you run with it."

Hainsey has consistently been one of Winnipeg's top-three defenders all season and it's difficult to imagine Cheveldayoff moving him for futures unless they are jaw-dropping. Maybe a combination of a roster player and picks could get Cheveldayoff in the mood to deal.

A case can be made for Antropov being the Jets most physical and effective forward over the last nine games, collecting 26 hits and seven points. Evander Kane, who leads the Jets in hits this season has 31 and two points over that stretch, underscoring Antropov's value right now.

Cheveldayoff says the Jets have a blueprint for the trade deadline but it's written in pencil, not ink.

"We're making phone calls. There are so many different scenarios out there for so many different teams," he said. "I heard it said somewhere recently that the tables are being set, but no one knows yet who they are having over for dinner. Plans are great in this chair and it's important to have things laid out, but you better have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C."

Hainsey and Antropov certainly aren't unmoveable. If someone wants to give Cheveldayoff a low first-round pick for Hainsey the GM will be tempted. But that's the likely asking price considering the body of work Hainsey has provided this season.

Say what you will about Hainsey -- he's not physical and provides little offence -- he's has been just short of outstanding.

Hainsey plays a cerebral game and is almost always in the right position.

With injuries to Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien keeping the Jets blue-line short one of their top-4 defenders for all but seconds this season, Hainsey has stepped in and carried more than his load.

The 31-year-old has nine assists in 29 games and is a minus-one while averaging over 23 minutes of ice a game. He's been more than serviceable and Jets coach Claude Noel wouldn't like to think where he'd be without him.

Hainsey is a very solid No. 5 defender on almost every team in the NHL and there's a market for that, as he and his agent will likely find out this July.

Cheveldayoff and the Jets don't have the depth to move Hainsey without enduring a significant drop-off on the blue-line. Paul Postma has been sitting in the press box for a reason and Grant Clitsome has struggled mightily of late. Arturs Kulda was added Monday but what he has to offer remains to be seen.

No, Hainsey has proven to be valuable. Watching Cheveldayoff stick to his asking price for Johnny Oduya last season should tell you something.

If he thinks Hainsey is worth a certain price, he won't budge.

Same goes for Antropov.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 D2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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