Jets’ smaller deadline deals could have significant impact

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As one of the NHL’s legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup, the Winnipeg Jets and their management team were very active at the NHL’s trade deadline, acquiring four NHL players in four separate deals, along with a couple of minor-league deals.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2019 (1373 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As one of the NHL’s legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup, the Winnipeg Jets and their management team were very active at the NHL’s trade deadline, acquiring four NHL players in four separate deals, along with a couple of minor-league deals.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets Kevin Hayes (12) during a pre-game skate at Bell MTS Place Tuesday morning.

The biggest deal of the day for Winnipeg was the acquisition of Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers, who is having a career year and should fit in perfectly as the second-line centre, bumping down Bryan Little so that he can dominate opposing third lines.

However I already wrote about how good a fit Hayes would be on the Jets before the deadline, so let’s focus on some smaller deals that Kevin Cheveldayoff made to bolster the Jets’ depth heading into the grind of playoff hockey: acquiring Nathan Beaulieu from the Buffalo Sabres for a sixth-round draft pick in 2019, Matt Hendricks from the Minnesota Wild for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 and Par Lindholm from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nic Petan.

Hendricks seems like a locker-room acquisition more than anything, because even with a couple of injuries, he’s likely behind Lindholm and Mason Appleton on the depth chart, and it’s not like the Jets are missing physical play on their fourth line with Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev.

With a great reputation as a glue guy, Hendricks’ benefits seem to me to be more off the ice than on it, so I wouldn’t worry too much about how he impacts the lineup.

Nathan Beaulieu is an interesting case though, especially with the injuries the Jets have been forced to deal with on defence. 

For a sixth-round pick, you shouldn’t expect a top-four defenceman who can handle tough minutes, though with Josh Morrissey out long term, Beaulieu will be put to the test in that role anyway, slotting in with Jacob Trouba on the No. 1 pairing.

Throughout his career, Beaulieu has thrived most when he isn’t asked to play a shutdown role, because while he brings some notable strengths to the table, he has some glaring weaknesses, as well.

 

 

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He’s a strong transition player, but how he gets things done is what’s interesting to me. The Jets, for the most part, like to make passes out of the defensive zone, while Beaulieu looks like a decent fit with pass completions on a potential third pairing, what he adds is an ability to carry the puck into the neutral zone at a higher rate than any Jets defender except for Josh Morrissey.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets Nathan Beaulieu (88) during a pre-game skate at Bell MTS Place Tuesday morning.

Those carry-out defensive zone exits are made more effective by Beaulieu being a very strong neutral-zone passer, something that seems to be a rarity on the Jets’ blue line, as the tendency seems to be if you carry it out, to try to carry the puck through the neutral zone.

Having a playmaker in the neutral zone such as Beaulieu should help the Jets’ change up their zone-entry scheme a bit and add more options there, as well.

Creating more controlled zone entries will also help the Jets off the rush, which should be a nice little feedback loop with adding Kevin Hayes, who happens to also be excellent off the rush, an area that the Jets have struggled with outside of Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele.

Beaulieu is also quite actively involved in offensive plays; though he doesn’t accumulate a ton of points, he keeps plays going fairly well.

The problem with Beaulieu — and what keeps him from being a more effective defenceman — is that he struggles without the puck.

 

 

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The Jets, as a team, don’t have a ton of variance defensively for each of their pairings, especially in the number of high-danger chances they allow, so Beaulieu sticks out here like a sore thumb, but remember that his play has been on the Buffalo Sabres, who give up far more chances and allow much more pre-shot movement than the Jets do.

To be clear, while Beaulieu was on the ice in Buffalo, the Sabres allowed more high-danger chances against than while any other defender was skating, but he also ranked as the second-best in limiting pre-shot movement, which may be something the Jets keyed in on, since it’s a strength of the team, and could show that he would fit in well.

Beaulieu is a defensive risk and a transition improvement, which is about what you would expect for a depth player. As long as the expectations aren’t very high, I think he could be a net positive for the Jets.

FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Toronto Maple Leafs centre Par Lindholm (26) rounds the net in an early January game.

At forward, the Jets also added to their depth with Par Lindholm, a defensive forward who can play centre or wing, but was outshone in Toronto by Frédérik Gauthier.

Lindholm is a bit of a specialist player. He’s not going to generate much offence off his own stick and, frankly, while he’s on the ice teams usually don’t generate much at all, but his defensive impact is real.

Despite starting more than 82 per cent of his shifts in the defensive and neutral zones, Lindholm was able to cut down both high-danger chances against and pre-shot movement while he was on the ice in Toronto.

 

 

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That’s an impressive feat, because based on its usage, Toronto’s fourth line while Lindholm was on the ice seemed to be used as a sacrificial lamb, getting slaughtered in overall shot differentials with the main goal to simply not give up too many goals.

At that, they succeeded; Lindholm carried a positive goal differential despite being amongst the lowest in shot, shot attempt and scoring-chance differentials on the roster.

I don’t think Lindholm is a big enough difference-maker to force his way onto the Jets’ strong fourth line of Lowry, Tanev and Copp, but should someone get injured, he can fill in very adequately, and if we know anything about shooting luck, you might even see him score a bit, since his shooting percentage this season is a paltry 1.6 per cent.

Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire

Andrew Berkshire is a hockey writer specializing in data-driven analysis of the game.

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