NHL Rumor Mill – April 5, 2022
The Winnipeg Jets could face some important roster decisions this summer if they fail to qualify for the 2022 playoffs. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre recently compared the current Jets roster to “expensive housecats”, suggesting they boast a “good pedigree, but can’t be coached, can’t be trained.” He points out there’s been little change in their inconsistent ways since Paul Maurice stepped down as head coach earlier this season and Dave Lowry took over behind the bench.
TSN analyst and former NHL general manager Craig Button recently blamed the Jets’ woes on what he considered “average coaching”, pointing out their poor defensive play. McIntyre, however, believes the fault rests with the players, singling out first-line center Mark Scheifele’s seemingly indifferent commitment to the defensive part of the game.
McIntyre suggests a “full-scale audit” of the franchise will be required if they miss the playoffs. That includes general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who assembled the current roster.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Ken Wiebe also believes the Jets’ performance over the remainder of this season could determine what level of changes will be necessary in the offseason.
Wiebe believes the Jets’ priority will be getting center Pierre-Luc Dubois signed to a long-term extension before giving consideration to any blockbuster deals. He doesn’t expect two-way forward Adam Lowry will be traded given his solid second-half performance.
The Jets need to ship out one or two veteran defensemen to make room for their promising prospects. Asked about whether the Jets should pursue Dallas Stars blueliner John Klingberg via free agency this summer, Wiebe doesn’t believe he’d be a good fit if the Jets attempt to shed salary from the blueline. The savings should be used to bring in a good middle-six forward.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggested Scheifele could be a doable acquisition for the Rangers as a replacement for Ryan Strome or Andrew Copp if one of them departs via free agency this summer. Scheifele is signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $6.125 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have steadily declined since 2017-18 when they finished with a franchise-record of 114 points and reached the Western Conference Finals. Changes could very well be in the offing if they failed to qualify for the postseason or get bounced from the opening round.
Scheifele’s become a lightning rod for criticism this season. Nevertheless, he would draw considerable interest in this summer’s trade market if management decides to shake things up. He has some measure of control with his 10-team no-trade list. His cap hit could also prove a bit of a sticking point.
Aging captain Blake Wheeler has a full no-movement clause. His age (35) and $8.25 million annual cap hit through 2023-24 would make him difficult to move.
Teams would line up for Jets forwards like Dubois, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. However, they’re likely considered untouchable unless someone is willing to overpay for their services.
Talk of moving one or two high-salaried defensemen would start with Nate Schmidt and Josh Morrissey. Moving either guy in cost-cutting deals will be challenging with the salary cap rising by just $1 million next season.
Schmidt, 30, is signed through 2024-25 with an annual average value of $5.95 million and a 10-team no-trade clause. The 27-year-old Morrissey carries a $6.25 million cap hit through 2027-28.
It might be easier for Jets management to find a head coach who will command the players’ respect and buy into a more responsible two-way system.