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Jets in position to make some noise

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg's NHL trade deadline acquisition Paul Stastny is a perfect fit for the Jets.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg's NHL trade deadline acquisition Paul Stastny is a perfect fit for the Jets.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/3/2018 (415 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The acquisition of Paul Stastny on Monday from the St. Louis Blues has kept Winnipeg Jets fans buzzing all week.

By bringing him in, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sent a clear message to fans, players and coaches — he believes this team has what it takes to make a long run in the playoffs. He obviously wouldn’t give up a prized first-round pick if he didn’t.

Two weeks ago, I stated my preference for a skilled centre to be added, mentioning Ottawa Senator Derick Brassard and Montreal Canadien Tomas Plekanec as possibilities. While Cheveldayoff reportedly tried hard to land them, his failure there led to the Stastny acquisition.

Like almost everybody, I was shocked he was available.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/3/2018 (415 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The acquisition of Paul Stastny on Monday from the St. Louis Blues has kept Winnipeg Jets fans buzzing all week.

By bringing him in, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sent a clear message to fans, players and coaches — he believes this team has what it takes to make a long run in the playoffs. He obviously wouldn’t give up a prized first-round pick if he didn’t.

Two weeks ago, I stated my preference for a skilled centre to be added, mentioning Ottawa Senator Derick Brassard and Montreal Canadien Tomas Plekanec as possibilities. While Cheveldayoff reportedly tried hard to land them, his failure there led to the Stastny acquisition.

Like almost everybody, I was shocked he was available.

A longtime fan of his play, I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Jets’ attempt to sign him when he hit the unrestricted free agent market in 2014. He was too expensive then ($7 million/year for four years), but he’s getting to Winnipeg better late than never.

An excellent all-around player, his smarts allow him to be a very effective penalty-killer and power-play option. His five-on-five possession numbers have been consistently good over the years.

The fact he can thrive with skilled players makes him a perfect fit for the Jets.

With everyone healthy, the Stastny deal leaves the Jets with a terrific top-nine and arguably the best fourth line in the league.

This group will cause nightmares for opposing coaches when they’re looking at matchups. There’s a big difference when your fourth centre is Adam Lowry instead of Matt Hendricks.

However, what really matters is how much this improves the Jets compared to other contending teams.

Here’s a quick look at the top contenders as they sit today, and how the Jets’ acquisition of Stastny compares to their deadline deals (This isn’t about what price was paid in assets, I’m just identifying how much effect the major deals had on improving each team’s roster.):

● The Tampa Bay Lightning added defenceman Ryan McDonagh and winger J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers, sending centre Vladislav Namestnikov north.

My thoughts: the forwards being swapped goes slightly the Rangers way. Adding McDonagh will anchor a shutdown pairing in a very good way. This deal’s effect on the Lightning will be similar to Winnipeg’s with Stastny. Call it a draw.

● The Boston Bruins acquired winger Rick Nash from the New York Rangers but it cost the Bruins centre Ryan Spooner, who has more points than Nash over the past few seasons.

My thoughts: the Bruins already had a decent group of forwards, including arguably the best line in the league led by centre Patrice Bergeron. I give a big edge to the Jets here, their trade has a much more significant impact on their lineup.

● The Pittsburgh Penguins swooped in and grabbed Brassard when it looked like the Jets were about to land him.

My thoughts: this is a significant upgrade for the Penguins as he now sits third in line behind two guys named Crosby and Malkin. Adding a skilled centre to a team that’s been successful by dropping Phil Kessel down to its third line was a major score for the Penguins. Call the Jets deal even with this one.

● The Nashville Predators added winger Ryan Hartman (Chicago Blackhawks), someone who gives them more good forward depth. He scored the game-winner against the Jets Tuesday.

My thoughts: he’s a decent third-line winger on a deep team, but he’s not close to having the overall effect that Stastny has on his club, despite that goal. The Jets win easily here.

● The Vegas Golden Knights acquired winger Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings) and winger Ryan Reaves (Pittsburgh Penguins).

My thoughts: I don’t like the Reaves acquisition, but Tatar will fit well in their top nine so he’ll definitely help. But their balance was already there, so the significant bump Winnipeg gets to its lineup decides it easily in Winnipeg’s favour.

To sum up this section, the Jets improved their roster in a better way than three of their biggest Cup rivals, and were even with the other two.

More importantly, they one-upped the two Western teams.

If Cheveldayoff had abstained here, players and fans would’ve had reason to be concerned whether they remained good enough to seriously challenge.

As we sit today, the Jets are in a terrific spot, assuming everyone comes back from the injured list. Of course, a lot of good or bad can still happen before the playoffs, but every team is in the same boat.

Because of the luck involved in hockey, you can basically throw a blanket over all the contenders mentioned, except for Vegas, as I’m still unsure about their top end.

After all, if you add Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry and Toby Enstrom to the lineup against Nashville on Tuesday, it could easily have been a different result. I feel good about their chances in a playoff series against the Predators if both teams are healthy.

One never knows when a team’s best opportunity will come — the Jets players earned the right to take a legitimate run at the big prize this year. If it doesn’t work out, they’re still positioned well for the future.

I was bullish on this team in the pre-season and they’ve given me many reasons to stay the course.

Cheveldayoff parachuting Stastny into the lineup has amplified that in a big way.

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 Friday, March 2, 2018 at 7:50 AM CST: Edited

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