DENVER — #TrotzWatch appears to be reaching critical mass, the veteran captain has suddenly appeared on a prominent trade board and the top-priority restricted free agent isn’t ready to commit to a long-term contract just yet.
Other than that, how’s your week going, Kevin Cheveldayoff?
Everyone knew this was going to be a critical offseason for the Winnipeg Jets general manager, given the organization’s inability to meet lofty expectations by failing to earn an invite to the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The search to find Paul Maurice’s replacement is ongoing, and interestingly enough, the former Jets head coach found a new job with the Florida Panthers earlier this week, energized and ready to roll six months after submitting his He resigns on December 17.
Jets fans have been waiting with pins to see whether or not Dauphin product Barry Trotz will accept an offer to become bench boss.
A source confirmed that the last meeting with Trotz and Cheveldayoff took place earlier this week and it is now up to Trotz to decide whether to take the job, which would involve succession planning to eventually move up to a management role.
Trotz was the Jets’ top target since being unexpectedly fired by the New York Islanders and the process has been methodical, which makes sense since the man who ranks third in the NHL in all-time wins wasn’t sure. whether he wanted to continue behind the bench or transition to his next job.
There’s no doubt that Trotz has the kind of sharp hockey mind to transition into management, but training is in his blood and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t want to give him one more chance.
With the 2022 NHL Draft just around the corner and free agency set to open on July 13, the Jets would like to have their new coach in early next month to help set the tone for a series of upcoming decisions.
No matter who is behind the bench, there seems to be a legitimate chance that right winger Blake Wheeler will find a new home for next season.
Daily Face-off’s Frank Seravalli had Wheeler at No. 3 on his deal chart, which was an interesting development.
Players like Wheeler don’t magically end up in the rumor mill unless the team or its representative wants to pass on the signal to generate buzz and possibly increase value.
Of course, being in a trade meeting and making a trade of this magnitude are not mutually exclusive, but his colleague Elliotte Friedman believes the situation has reached a point where a change of scenery would benefit Wheeler.
To that end, trading Wheeler, 36, could be somewhat complicated by his contract status, which includes two more seasons and an average annual value of $8.25 million.
Wheeler remains a productive player and has been a durable guy throughout his career, which includes more than 1,000 NHL games.
Wheeler’s full-move clause in his current deal changes to a partial no-move deal on July 1, where he submits a list of five teams he would accept a trade from.
Are there any contending teams willing to absorb those last two seasons of Wheeler’s contract, or will Cheveldayoff need to use a little creativity to find a suitable spot?
Would it need to include an additional sweetener, player or prospect that would make it worthwhile for a team looking to hit the salary cap?
Would a third team need to get involved or could the Jets consider keeping up to 50 percent of the contract?
A buyout is another option the Jets could consider, but history tells us the organization only used that scenario once, way back in 2017, when the final season of Mark Stuart’s contract was voided.
Could Wheeler be willing to take a deal with the Arizona Coyotes, who are one of those teams that don’t have many players signed for 2022-23 and could fit under the salary cap (especially since the actual salary is only $6.5 million? the next season)? and he goes back up to $8.25 million in the final season after earning $10 million last season)?
The idea of Wheeler on a Coyotes team that’s still in the early stages of the rebuilding process seems strange, but what if he’s interested in reuniting with his old linemate and former Jets captain Andrew Ladd?
The added stress of being the Jets captain seemed to take a toll on Wheeler emotionally over the past two seasons.
Stepping out of the spotlight and into the background with the organization that originally drafted him No. 5 in the 2004 draft would have a certain circle-of-life element to it.
For the Jets, they may have reached the point where they’re ready to hand over the leadership group to a new voice, and perhaps a slightly different approach.
Whatever happens to Wheeler, he has given his heart and soul to the organization, choosing Winnipeg as the place where he wanted to raise his young family.
He will also become one of the most productive players in franchise history and has spent a good portion of his time here as the face of the franchise.
As for the future of center Pierre-Luc Dubois, colleague Elliotte Friedman reported Wednesday that his camp has informed the Jets that he plans to explore unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024.
That news was greeted by Jets fans on social media with a mixture of caution and genuine concern.
Friedman also reported that the Jets are still hoping to convince Dubois to stay after signing him to a short-term deal.
The Jets still have two years of control under Dubois, but there’s a chance the Jets might decide to speed up the process and look to trade him.
That doesn’t mean a trade is a sure thing, as the Jets have found themselves in a similar situation in recent years with defenseman Jacob Trouba and Patrik Laine, who was the linchpin sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets to acquire Dubois. first.
Under Trouba, after the Jets reached the Western Conference finals in 2018, the organization decided to keep the defenseman for one more playoff push before moving him to the New York Rangers during the week of the 2019 NHL Draft. .
With Laine, it looked like the Jets were about to follow the same playbook, but things kicked into high gear when Dubois asked to be traded by the Blue Jackets.
It’s too early to say what direction the Jets will take with Dubois, though the preferred route would be to sign him to a one-year deal or even settle a one-year deal through arbitration if things get to that stage.
However, that process could make things more tense and should be avoided if possible.
Could Dubois change his tune if Trotz takes the Jets’ job and flourishes under his watch?
That’s not out of the question, though there will always be debate over whether a player’s market value is greater with a season or two before said player is allowed to enter the open market for the first time in his NHL career.
Given how hard the Jets worked to get to a Dubois-Mark Scheifele double, coupled with the way Cheveldayoff has operated during his first 11 seasons as GM, the one thing we know for sure is that he won’t be pressured to make a panic move.
Dubois was supposed to be a staple for the Jets, a guy to hang out with and a potential future captain.
He took a leadership role and was often one of the players to express disappointment with how last season was going, his level of investment was obvious in both his words and his play on the ice.
On a team with a lot of scorers, Dubois also brings a physical element, and he’s the kind of guy who takes teammates into battle with him.
Dubois recently competed for Team Canada at the IIHF Men’s Hockey World Championships, playing a key role in a silver medal-winning performance and thriving in a line with Dylan Cozens and Drake Batherson.
Instead of Jets fans wondering how the Jets could acquire one of those players in a deal, Thursday’s news will likely have Buffalo Sabers and Ottawa Senators fans wondering out loud what it would take to exchange for Dubois.
The return of any potential deal for Dubois would have to be significant and make sense in both the short and long term, as the Jets are unwilling to go into rebuild mode.
The belief in the organization was that last season was the exception and not a sign of things to come, that the reloading process involves building up the core, not dismantling it.
There are some changes coming for the Jets, but a few things need to fall into place before things start to come into clearer focus and we find out just how significant the adjustments will be.