NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2022
In today’s NHL rumor mill, the Jets could face offseason changes following the disappointing outcome of this season plus a look at some potential decisions facing the Red Wings.
CHANGES COULD BE COMING THIS SUMMER FOR THE JETS
SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe believes the Winnipeg Jets must begin the process of repairing a winning culture that’s been in decline in recent years starting with their remaining games in this season. He feels the franchise’s foundation is showing cracks in need of repair.
The Jets have plenty of offensive skill but they’re not scoring on a consistent basis. They’re giving up too many quality scoring chances, they don’t defend well enough around their net while their special teams have struggled.
Wiebe feels some of those issues were papered over by goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s play in recent years. However, they were exposed when he wasn’t playing at a Vezina-caliber level this season as the volume of shots and scoring chances against him increased.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck shares Wiebe’s concern that there are cracks in the Jets’ foundation. He pointed out that players such as Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Paul Stastny and Josh Morrissey have publicly admitted the team’s performance is not up to snuff, with Connor also admitting a culture change is needed.
Billeck believes that will be up to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff or his replacement if ownership decides a change is needed in the front office. It could also have an effect on contract talks with center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes it’s time for the Jets to conduct a full examination to address the malaise gripping the club. He wonders if that will be conducted by Cheveldayoff or his boss, Mark Chipman. The Jets owner has to be seeing the effects on the ice and in the stands, where the Jets are averaging 1,500 – 2,000 empty seats per game.
McIntyre also pondered the possibility of the Jets bringing in an experienced and sharp hockey mind from outside the organization as other clubs have done in recent years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The focus of these pieces center on whether there will be changes in the front office after this season. Cheveldayoff’s been in the job since 2011. While he built them up into a Western Conference finalist in 2018, they’ve been steadily declining since then. Perhaps a change in management is necessary.
Whoever is the Jets general manager this summer must decide if a roster shakeup is required or if the problem could be addressed with a coaching change. Long-time bench boss Paul Maurice stepped down in December claiming the team needed a “new voice” to reach the next level. Assistant coach Dave Lowry took over on an interim basis but was no more successful than his predecessor.
Some roster changes could still be in order if the Jets replace Cheveldayoff and hire a new head coach. McIntyre has suggested moving out a couple of expensive veterans to clear roster and cap space for promising young defensemen such as Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola.
Center Mark Scheifele recently surfaced in the rumor mill as an offseason trade candidate. Some Jets fans would like to see captain Blake Wheeler replaced but his age (35), $8.25 million cap hit through 2023-24 and full no-movement clause makes that option difficult to achieve.
LATEST RED WINGS SPECULATION
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Kevin Allen and Bob Duff recently addressed some questions about the Red Wings’ future plans. They don’t see Jeff Blashill returning as head coach, with Allen saying he’s heard GM Steve Yzerman could look at some tough, demanding coaching candidates if he replaces Blashill.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blashill’s been the Wings’ head coach for the past seven seasons. He couldn’t be faulted for most of the club’s struggles during the earlier years of its rebuild. However, they were expected to make significant improvement this season, perhaps even contend for a wild-card spot. Their second-half collapse amid ongoing concerns over their defensive play suggests it’s time for a fresh perspective behind the bench.
Allen and Duff both believe Yzerman’s roster priority is to bring in a second-line center. They also expect he’ll seek an experienced second-pairing defenseman. Possible forward options could include the New York Rangers’ Andrew Copp and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Vincent Trocheck via free agency. Duff’s also hearing Yzerman could target Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg if he hits the open market.
They also suggest Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina as trade candidates if the Wings don’t see them as part of their long-term plans. Bertuzzi is a year away from UFA status while Zadina is a restricted free agent this summer. They could retain the latter as they appreciate how hard he’s working to become a better player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman’s shown a willingness to make bold moves, first by shipping Anthony Mantha to Washington for Jakub Vrana at last year’s trade deadline and acquiring goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from Carolina last summer. I wouldn’t be shocked if he peddles Bertuzzi and/or Zadina to land that second-line center or second-pairing blueliner this summer.