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Opinion

Jets should beef up lineup before trade deadline

Mats Zuccarello dives for the puck during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. (Karl B DeBlaker / Associated Press files)</p>

Mats Zuccarello dives for the puck during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. (Karl B DeBlaker / Associated Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2018 (516 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The NHL’s trade deadline is looming and the Winnipeg Jets have a few options, but only one that I like — go for it!

I don’t say that without serious thought, as the other options can certainly be defended.

The Jets could stand pat with a lineup that’s battling for first place in the Central Division and point to the thriving depth the team possesses.

Why give up future assets to possibly improve their odds of winning the Stanley Cup? After all, the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals flopped last year after spending large to acquire big-name players.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/2/2018 (516 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The NHL’s trade deadline is looming and the Winnipeg Jets have a few options, but only one that I like — go for it!

I don’t say that without serious thought, as the other options can certainly be defended.

The Jets could stand pat with a lineup that’s battling for first place in the Central Division and point to the thriving depth the team possesses.

Why give up future assets to possibly improve their odds of winning the Stanley Cup? After all, the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals flopped last year after spending large to acquire big-name players.

However, that would leave out the fact almost every Stanley Cup winner for many years now has made trades at the deadline to beef up its lineup.

They weren’t all blockbuster deals, which leads us to the second line of thought: the Jets could add two or three depth players at minimal cost to protect against injuries.

I’m not sold on adding players that aren’t going to improve the club. If they’re just bringing in similar players to battle for the lower spots in the lineup, then I don’t like giving up future assets at this juncture.

However, there are a number of reasons to step up and acquire a player that fits in the "good" category, one the Jets will have to pay a lot more for.

The team has been, for the most part, remarkable and deserves every chance to win this year, which includes seeing a new face or two come into the room.

I believe older players such as Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom understand that you only get so many chances at a Cup, and realize how close this team is to seeing that happen.

The Jets have plenty of cap space this year to take on players heading into unrestricted free agency this summer.

They can also fit in a guy with one more year on his contract, which should definitely be considered.

Their cap situation gets fuzzy after that, and while the Jets look to have a bright future, it’s uncertain how that will play out.

What we do know is they deserve what they’ve earned this year — they’re one of the top teams in the league and a serious contender.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff should be looking to upgrade, without selling the farm, of course.

He can start by putting this summer’s first-round draft pick on the table; the cupboards are in good shape.

That puts him in play on a number of players the "insiders" are suggesting the Jets are looking at, some much more desirable than others.

I find two New York Rangers to still be of particular interest, despite the new names being rumoured.

Winger Mats Zuccarello reminds me a lot of Mathieu Perreault: you can plug him into the lineup anywhere and he will perform at a high level. He also has another year on his contract at US$4.5 million, which makes him easier to step up and pay for.

Michael Grabner, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, also plays the wing, kills penalties and has blinding speed.

His 23 goals (22 even-strength, one short-handed and a very high 18.4 shooting percentage) have me worried about them having to overpay for his services.

However, with seven empty-netters, he’s out there defending tight leads — there’s a lot to like if a bidding war doesn’t happen.

Let’s go back to earlier things I’ve said here regarding centre Matt Hendricks.

I’ve admired his all-out team approach that has little regard for the safety of his body, and he’s done everything you could ask of him this season.

That aside, I’m still concerned about his speed when we’re talking playoffs, and nabbing a pivot to replace him could be an important move.

Ottawa Senators unrestricted free agent (UFA) centre Derick Brassard has a year left with a US$5-million cap hit. With 31 points in 53 games, he’d be a solid part of what would be a fourth line able to create consistent offence.

If the prices being thrown around — first-round pick and assets — are correct, then he’s too expensive. But maybe the asking prices become reasonable.

From everything we’ve seen, Hendricks is definitely the guy Maurice wants on that fourth line, so it’s up to Cheveldayoff to get him a replacement he can’t resist putting into the lineup.

Would Montreal Canadiens UFA Tomas Plekanec do it? He’d be a lot cheaper than Brassard. There are some centres that may be available that have term on their contract, such as the Senators Jean-Gabriel Pageau (four years left at a US$3.1-million cap hit).

A puck-moving left-shot defenceman would be a bonus, one that can hopefully help in a top-four role if needed. Considering the current high prices being mentioned, I’m not sure if anything can happen here though.

Last year’s Cup finalists tell us that depth and skill are needed to go all the way.

The Nashville Predators used 18 forwards and six defencemen during their playoff run, while the Pittsburgh Penguins used 15 forwards and eight defencemen. This year, the Jets have used 17 forwards and eight defencemen with success.

That’s regular-season play though, not over a few seven-game series. It’s another reason why I’d like to see a move to upgrade their personnel.

The team deserves more than just adding depth or sticking with the same lineup.

I think the fans do, too, even the ones who don’t agree with me today.

Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell
Columnist

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.

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History

Updated on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 3:14 PM CST: Typo fixed.

February 16, 2018 at 7:12 AM: Edited

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