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PHILADELPHIA – Cody Eakin has been a perpetual thorn in the Winnipeg Jets' side; now, the NHL club is hoping he'll return home and apply that petulance during their run to the postseason and beyond.
The Winnipegger was acquired late Friday in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sent a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft to Vegas for the feisty 28-year-old, left-shooting forward, who has split the bulk of his nine-year pro career between Dallas and Vegas. Should the Jets qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs or sign Eakin to a new contract on, or before, July 5, 2020 then the Jets will instead transfer their 2021 third-round pick to the Golden Knights.
Eakin, listed at 6-0, 185 pounds, is expected to be in the lineup Sunday afternoon when the Jets play the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Arena, the third of a four-game eastern road trip.
He has four goals, six assists and 16 penalty minutes in 41 games this season – he was sidelined five weeks with an upper-body injury – but his true value will be measured by the moxie, veteran presence and depth the club believes he can provide.
"Cody was someone that really intrigued the coaches from the moment that I brought his name up the first time. Cody's the type of guy that just oozes character. Obviously, he's had some tremendous playoff experience over the last couple of years," said Cheveldayoff, in a conference call. "He brings guys into the fight with how he plays and with the energy and leadership that he brings. Really excited to add a player like that into our room and on the ice."
It's Cheveldayoff's second deal of the week where no roster players headed out of the Manitoba capital. On Tuesday, the Central Division team picked up defenceman Dylan DeMelo from the Ottawa Senators for a 2020 third-round pick.
Winnipeg (32-25-5) holds down the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference and is pushing to earn a third-straight trip to the NHL playoffs.
The nine-year veteran is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He's on an expiring four-year contract that pays him $3.85 million a year. This was a salary dump by the Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who is likely rubbing his hands together in anticipation of some major acquisitions before Monday's trade deadline.
The Golden Knights are 32-22-8 and have a loose grip on top spot in Pacific Division, just a point up on the Edmonton Oilers and two ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Both Canadian squads had two games in hand, as of Friday afternoon.
Eakin has played centre and the wing during his career, and was a key penalty killer in Vegas (averaging 2:04 per game).
He had a career season in 2018-19, firing 22 goals and supplying 19 assists. He also added two goals in seven games in an opening-round playoff series loss to San Jose, and was the man wrongly accused of high-sticking then-Sharks forward Joe Pavelski. The Sharks were handed a five-minute man advantage and erased a 3-0 deficit with four power-play goals.
Overall, Eakin has 102 goals and 232 points in 578 NHL games, while accumulating eight goals and 19 points in 48 playoff games. But he wasn't pursued for his offensive production.
"He adds an element that helps you get into the playoffs, and is an extremely valuable (player) when you are in the playoffs. It's not about how many goals is he scoring or anything like that, it's how he scores them or how he gets opportunities," said Cheveldayoff. "He went through an injury this year and it took a while to get back from that. But he's a player that on character charts and compete charts is one of the higher ones."
Eakin spent three productive seasons with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, and was selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
The Jets also announced they have assigned forward Andrei Chibisov to the Manitoba Moose.
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).