Coming into the trade deadline the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets had an area of need. Mainly on defence. Considering all the losses they had at that position over the last couple of years you would have thought they would have done a better job addressing that need. And yes they are sitting in second place in the North Division, the Winnipeg Jets needed to upgrade their defence. That way their defence could be on par with their offence. Unfortunately, the Jets missed a golden opportunity to upgrade their defence heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2020-21 Winnipeg Jets Lackluster Trade Deadline
Now it is not like we have not seen teams with an average defence win the Stanley Cup. It has happened as recently as the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 when they went on to win their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups. That year their defence was not as good as it was in 2016. Kris Letang was banged up and not the same player he was in 2016. However, then general manager Jim Rutherford added enough depth pieces on defence so the offence did not have to carry the load. And that is what Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could have on at this year’s trade deadline.
The Jets were expected to be a buyer at the deadline, however, the only piece they picked up was Jordie Benn. Not to disparage what Jordie Benn has done on the ice, but it was not the player people expected the Jets to get. Benn has experience on the blueline and in the playoffs and is more of a bottom pair or seventh defenceman. Cheveldayoff mentioned in a press conference on Monday that he tried to swing for the fences at the deadline to upgrade the defence. However, the players he was targeting did not move. One of the players the Jets were targeting was Mattias Ekholm. However, all indications pointed to the price being just too high.
But that does not mean there weren’t other players out there the Jets could have gotten to upgrade the defence. Let’s take a look at some players the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets could have gotten to help on defence.
The first player that comes to mind is New Jersey Devils defenceman Sami Vatanen. Vatanen was put on waivers the day before the trade deadline. Since Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald could not get much for him on the trade market, he put him on waivers. Several teams said they would rather put a claim on him instead of trading for him. And while his cap hit was $2 million, the Jets had room to accommodate him. It is the same amount that the Jets are paying for Benn. It might have been tough for the Jets to put a waiver claim in considering where they are in the standings. But, they should have instead of giving up a draft pick for Benn.
And while he has struggled with the Devils, Vatanen is a solid second-pair defenceman that can move the puck and play good defence. Not to mention, an excellent penalty killer. Look what he did with the Dallas Stars after he was claimed off waivers. He averaged about 15 minutes on the ice. Something the Jets can use going forward.
Another player the Jets could have brought back was Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov has a little less of a cap hit at S1.15 million. Consider the fact that he is familiar with Paul Maurice’s system having played there before. And considering what the Oilers gave up to get him, I think a conditional fourth-round pick is something Cheveldayoff could have afforded. Now with that being said, maybe the organization did not want to bring him back because they may have only saw him as a sixth or seventh defenceman. Which is exactly what they got with Benn. But with the injuries on defence, having a guy who is familiar with the system has its upsides.
The reason David Savard is on this list is that he is exactly the type of player the Jets needed to go and get. Now, this could have been one of the players the Jets were targeting, if this move was going to be made it would have been made before the deadline. Savard fits the bill of being a top-four defenceman that can eat minutes and play in any situation. And while he was going to be a pure rental, to help the Jets get over the top in the playoffs, this is the type of acquisition they needed to make.
And while the money might have been an issue, good teams figure out a way to make it work. Just look what Savard did over the last several playoff runs with the Columbus Blue Jackets. To have an anchor on defence is what you need to win and the Jets have not had that since Dustin Byfuglien.
Another player the Jets could have targeted was Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars. Again not a flashy player on defence, but a solid defenceman that can play in the top-four. He was an integral part of why the Stars got to the Stanley Cup Final last year. Oleksiak played a massive role for the Stars on defence. Again at $2.137 million, this is a reasonable contract to add. As many teams in the West found out last year he is a tough player to play against. And in the playoffs, you need guys like that. Oleksiak skates well for his size and is a good shutdown defenceman. Again another player the Jets could have used once the playoffs began.
These were just some of the players the Jets could have targeted. There were others. It was a little surprising to see the Jets only get Jordie Benn considering the names that were out there. If you have to classify the Jets as a loser on deadline day, you can. Even with Connor Hellebuyck and that strong offence, once the playoff comes it is all about defence. And the 2020-21 Winnipeg Jets needed to upgrade their defence and did not do it.
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