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Where's the beef?

Wheeler is a premium grade talent but Jets are critically low on depth at right wing

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Wheeler is a premium grade talent but Jets are critically low on depth at right wing

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Wheeler is a premium grade talent but Jets are critically low on depth at right wing

If Winnipeg Jets fans have learned anything over the last two years about the man running their hockey team, it's this: Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't one to drop many hints.

And so when the Jets GM makes no secret of his desire to add a top-six forward to the team's roster -- specifically a right-winger to complement Evander Kane on the second trio -- it ranks as a significant revelation.

Trouble is, filling that gaping hole on the Jets depth chart isn't as simple as scrolling through the GM numbers on his speed dial. It takes two to make a deal and most of Cheveldayoff's trades to date have been of the tinkering variety for bit parts or draft picks.

Still, as Cheveldayoff and members of the Jets scouting/management team make their way to New Jersey today for Sunday's NHL entry draft, there's little doubt one of the chief objectives -- possibly via trade -- is to beef up the team's right flank.

And as we glance at the club's roster in part three of our Jets At The Draft series, it's easy to see why this is such a need. Consider, after all, the following:

  • Blake Wheeler, the team's No. 1 right-winger, is a restricted free agent;
  • Kyle Wellwood, Mike Santorelli and Antti Miettinen are all unrestricted free agents and tough-guy Anthony Peluso is also a restricted free agent.
  • The lone right-winger signed to an NHL contract who played in St. John's this past season is Tomas Kubalik, who just signed in the KHL with HC Lev Praha.

Now, there are some intriguing right-wingers who may be available in free agency -- Pascal Dupuis, David Clarkson and Nathan Horton chief among them -- but Winnipeg has never been a prime destination for NHLers with options. That's not a shot, just reality.

"Between now and September there's going to be a lot of opportunity to evaluate and see what is out there and what the options are, whether it's free agency or trade," said Cheveldayoff this week. "Those things still need to unfold. We've been open about it: we'd love to find another forward somehow, be it by trade or by free agency, to come in and play in the top end of our lineup.

"But, having said that, there's other teams that would like to do that as well. It'll be something we're going to have to compete for."

Asked if there were any untouchables on his roster, Cheveldayoff added this:

"If you are truly open to trying to do anything you would explore anything when it comes to trying to make a trade. But the realistic thing is we want to build through some stability as well. The players that want to be here... we want to make sure we continue to build with those types of players.

"You're always looking."

 

RIGHT WING -- WHAT'S IN THE SYSTEM?

THE JETS

BLAKE WHEELER: Back-to-back solid seasons for the big winger and there is still a belief he has even more to give as his game grows. A must for the Jets to lock up.

Wheeler FYI: Age: 26. 2013 numbers: 48GP, 19G, 22A.

Contract: Restricted free agent (2013 contract paid him $2.65 million).

MIKE SANTORELLI: Not a bad waiver-wire pickup for the Jets. Versatile enough to play centre and wing and a deadly finisher in the shootout. But is that enough to earn him a new deal?

Santorelli FYI: Age: 27. 2013 numbers: 34GP, 2G, 2A. Contract: Unrestricted free agent (earned $1.6 million in 2013).

KYLE WELLWOOD: Has proven to be very useful in his two years in Winnipeg. Outstanding hockey sense, but skating remains an issue. If he returns, is that blocking the development of someone younger?

Wellwood FYI: Age: 30. 2013 numbers: 39 GP, 6G, 9A

Contract: Unrestricted free agent (contract paid him $1.6 million in 2013).

ANTTI MIETTINEN: He's been hurt, he's been snakebitten and he was a shadow of the player who averaged just under 17 goals over a four-year span in Dallas and Minny before arriving here.

Miettinen FYI: Age: 2013 numbers: 22GP, 3G, 2A. Contract: Unrestricted free agent (contract paid him $1,351,293 in 2013).

CHRIS THORBURN: Character/glue guy in the room. Offers some toughness and grit to a team short of it up front.

Thorburn FYI: Age: 30. 2013 numbers: 42GP, 2G, 2A. Contract: One year remaining on current deal ($900,000 salary in 2013-14; cap hit: $866,667)

ANTHONY PELUSO: A younger version of Thorburn. The Jets grabbed him off waivers for his toughness and were surprised -- in a good way -- at his offensive skills.

Peluso FYI: Age: 24. 2013 numbers: 5GP, 0G, 2A. Contract: Restricted free agent (2013 contract paid him $605,000).

 

TOP RIGHT-WING PROSPECT

SCOTT KOSMACHUK: A third-round pick in 2012 who has posted consecutive 30-goal seasons in the OHL with the Guelph Storm (65 goals in 135 games)... Played in the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game... Has a gritty side to his game and isn't afraid to stand up for himself and teammates... Played for Canada's under-18 team at the IIHF world championship in 2012.

 

THE ICE CAPS

(right-wingers under NHL contracts)

TOMAS KUBALIK: Came to the Jets organization from Columbus in the Spencer Machacek trade. Had back issues and didn't show a whole lot of jam in 10 games with the IceCaps. Just recently signed in the KHL, but the Jets will retain his rights.

 

IN THE SYSTEM

(draft picks or players under NHL deals)

AUSTEN BRASSARD: Drafted by the Jets in the fifth round in 2011, his numbers were down in his final year with the Belleville Bulls, but he has good size at 6-2, 207 and will likely be in St. John's this fall.

YASIN CISSE: A fifth-round pick in 2010, Cisse left Boston University this winter to join Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL and finished with eight goals in 27 games. Also good size at 6-3, 215.

VINNY SAPONARI: A Thrashers pick from back in 2008, Saponari turned pro with the IceCaps this spring and had a goal in seven games after finishing up his collegiate career.

 

THE NHL'S BEST

By comparison, a look at some the NHL's top right wings (ranked by 2013 scoring):

1. MARTIN ST. LOUIS, TAMPA BAY: 48 GP, 17G, 43A

2. PATRICK KANE, CHICAGO: 47 GP, 23G, 32A

3. PHIL KESSEL, TORONTO: 48 GP, 20G, 32A

4. JAKUB VORACEK, PHILADELPHIA: 48 GP, 22G, 24A

5. ALEXANDER SEMIN, CAROLINA.: 44GP, 13g, 31A

Other notable right-wingers: PA Parenteau, Colorado; Corey Perry, Anaheim; Jordan Eberle, Edmonton; Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh; Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh.

 

This is the third in a series. Tomorrow: Part 4 -- defencemen

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2013 C3

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