The horizon looks bleak, the situation grows desperate. For Winnipeg Jets fans, the situation feels dimmer each day. Somehow, despite a strong roster on paper, things never quite clicked for their core group. Their deepest run, back in 2017-18, saw them reach the Western Conference Final. At the time, the Jets stood tall as an emerging powerhouse. They maintained most of that roster and iterated around their key assets every season since then but to no avail. Just when they look strong again, they putter out. And now, the stage is set this summer for an all-out Jets trade spree.
Winnipeg Jets Might Trade Everyone Before 2023-24 Season
Deciding to go back to the drawing board is never easy. However, when the payroll lines up as it did this year for Winnipeg, the decision kind of makes itself. They only have seven roster players on the books beyond next season. Besides those “longer-term” contracts, another eight roster players sit on deals set to expire next summer.
While those decisions all come into play this summer, that doesn’t even take into consideration their current batch of UFAs and RFAs. Many of the current free agents filled supporting roles, like Karson Kuhlman, Sam Gagner, and Vladislav Namestnikov. Even their biggest RFA, Pierre-Luc Dubois, requested a trade and has no intention of playing another game in a Jets uniform.
It’s an eerily similar situation to what transpired that first brought Dubois to Winnipeg, ironically. Back then, it was Patrik Laine wanting out of Winnipeg while Dubois wanted out of Columbus. It appears, in Dubois’ eyes, the grass is not green on either side of that deal.
Big Names Want Out
So with six UFAs, and at least one of their five RFAs, more than likely leaving town, the focus shifts to next season’s roster. Of the eight contracts expiring after next year, six will be UFAs (and are all 30 years of age, or older). Combing through the names on that list is essentially the same as listing off the franchise’s greatest players in their history. Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Connor Hellebuyck all reach the end of lengthy deals in 2024.
And ultimately, those players already stand ready for a change of scenery. After elimination from the playoffs this past year, sentiments clearly stated a desire to win a Stanley Cup among each of them. A Jets trade between now and next summer ensures the franchise nets something in return before losing them for nothing, at least.
Jets Future Sits in Complete Uncertainty
That said, Winnipeg struggles here in terms of leverage. Yes, the players have great track records and can help other teams immediately. But knowing the situation in Winnipeg, and that almost everyone wants out? That knowledge makes it difficult to demand a strong return or even just a fair one.
On The Athletic’s offseason trade board, the top three names today all play for the Jets (Dubois, Hellebuyck, Scheifele). A fourth Jet sits 11th (Wheeler). Dubois seems guaranteed to get moved over the summer, while the other three should be gone between now and the 2024 trade deadline.
The interesting question then becomes, where do they go from here? The core they built around for the last decade just threw in the towel. Maybe they want to re-tool quickly and build something around Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, and Nikolaj Ehlers. Or, maybe this ship needs to fully bottom out before working its way back up. In that case, those other names might follow in subsequent Jets trades as well. Whatever winds up happening, the Jets team as we know it is dead, and something else will take its place.
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