December 11, 2018

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Jets send Stafford packing

No room for forward with strong play of Laine, Ehlers: Cheveldayoff

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/3/2017 (650 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Any late-season surge by the Winnipeg Jets to make the NHL playoffs will have to come from the same group that’s been around for most of the 2016-17 campaign.

Veteran forward Drew Stafford’s contribution to the cause clearly wasn’t required, however, as the 31-year-old pending free agent was shipped out at the NHL trade deadline Wednesday.

The Jets dealt Stafford to the Boston Bruins for a conditional sixth-round draft pick just before the 2 p.m. deadline.

Boston (33-24-6) is currently third in the Atlantic Division and occupies a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/3/2017 (650 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Drew Stafford has been traded to Boston.</p>

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES

Drew Stafford has been traded to Boston.

Any late-season surge by the Winnipeg Jets to make the NHL playoffs will have to come from the same group that’s been around for most of the 2016-17 campaign.

Veteran forward Drew Stafford’s contribution to the cause clearly wasn’t required, however, as the 31-year-old pending free agent was shipped out at the NHL trade deadline Wednesday.

The Jets dealt Stafford to the Boston Bruins for a conditional sixth-round draft pick just before the 2 p.m. deadline.

Boston (33-24-6) is currently third in the Atlantic Division and occupies a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Stafford did not factor into the club’s future, and the hole immediately created will be filled by either Marko Dano or Andrew Copp, both coming off injury and ready to play as early as Friday at home against the St. Louis Blues.

"Part of the impetus of the trade is that Copp and Dano are basically coach’s decisions to come back into the lineup," said Cheveldayoff, noting the deal with Boston was finalized right at the deadline. "Drew’s not a fourth-line or a bottom-six type of player and so… there’s not an opportunity for him to play in the top six, given (Nikolaj) Ehlers and (Patrik) Laine bursting onto the scene."

The pick the Jets receive from Boston in 2018 could improve to a fourth-rounder if the Bruins win a playoff round this spring and Stafford plays at least 50 per cent of the club’s remaining regular-season games and playoff contests.

The pick improves to a fifth-round selection if the Bruins simply make the playoffs and Stafford plays at least half of all their remaining games.

"I’m excited," Stafford said. "It’s a great opportunity to get back in the mix. It’s very similar to when I got moved here, a team that’s right in the hunt. That’s why you play, is to play in the playoffs."

The Jets acquired Stafford along with defenceman Tyler Myers, wingers Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick (Jack Roslovic) in a blockbuster trade two years ago that saw forward Evander Kane and defenceman Zach Bogosian go to the Buffalo Sabres.

Stafford was a big contributor upon his arrival, scoring nine goals and adding 10 assists to help the club crack the playoffs for the first time. He signed a new two-year deal in the summer of 2015 and notched 21 goals a year ago but has just four in 40 games this season, missing chunks of time due to injuries.

Stafford said the trade came as no great surprise.

"It’s part of the business. I know with my contract and the way things are going, there was definitely an opportunity and a possibility (to be traded). I have to answer questions about it when I get asked about it. That’s part of the job and part of the business," he said.

Stafford said a pair of home playoff games at the MTS Centre against the Anaheim Ducks in 2015 stand out as a career highlight.

"The whiteout in the playoffs," he recalled. "To get an opportunity to come here and be part of a team that was in the hunt, especially a team like Winnipeg that was getting back in the league and getting back in the playoff mix, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity... that was awesome."

Any move by Winnipeg to acquire a quality veteran goaltender or some blue-line help wasn’t going to happen at the deadline — that’s a post-expansion draft project. Cheveldayoff said despite their struggles, he still believes going with a duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson this season was most appropriate for a franchise building through youth.

"It’s a work in progress with respect to the development of (Hellebuyck). Like any young player, they have to learn the ups and downs of the NHL. They have to be better," he said. "To continue to grow, you have to challenge yourself and I think there’s tremendous capacity for growth in Connor."

Cheveldayoff praised the work of head coach Paul Maurice and his coaching staff, hinting he’ll consider talking contract extension with the bench boss when the time is right.

"I like our staff, it’s a very good staff. Working with Paul Maurice is a pleasure each and every day. He’s in this for the long haul, I’m in this for the long haul, (and) the organization is in this for the long haul," he said.

"At the end of the year, Paul and I and ownership will sit down together and see where the direction goes. I have no problem sitting down and talking to him about an extension, but we’re in the middle of the season and we’re trying to make the playoffs."

Winnipeg (28-30-6) dropped a 6-5 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at the MTS Centre. The club remains five points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, held by the St. Louis Blues.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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History

Updated on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 3:14 PM CST: Updated, new photo added.

5:24 PM: Updated.

9:44 PM: Updated to edited version

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