ANALYSIS: Why investing a roster spot on a 3rd goalie is a wise move for Jets

Montreal Canadiens centre Phillip Danault (24) scores on Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Anton Forsberg (31) during first-period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe

In a perfect world, Anton Forsberg probably won’t ever start a game in goal for the Winnipeg Jets.

So why was claiming him off waivers important?

In a season that figures to be as unpredictable as any in recent memory, goaltending depth has become even more essential than usual for NHL teams.

And when Eric Comrie was plucked off waivers going into the campaign for a second consecutive season, the Jets found themselves with a shortage between the pipes that pushed prospect Mikhail Berdin onto the taxi squad.

For the short term, that’s not a major issue, especially since the Manitoba Moose haven’t even started training camp for an American Hockey League season projected to open in early February.

Manitoba Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin. True North Sports & Entertainment

This is a vital year when it comes to the development of Berdin, chosen by the Jets in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL draft.

Story continues below advertisement

He needs to play in a high number of games, not skate with the extras or fill in when Jets workhorse Connor Hellebuyck needs a day off from practice to get refreshed and recharged.

After Comrie landed with the New Jersey Devils — who required some goalie depth of their own after Corey Crawford unexpectedly retired — the Jets picked up Forsberg from the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

Forsberg was actually claimed by the Hurricanes from the Edmonton Oilers a few days earlier as insurance because they were concerned that third-stringer Alex Nedeljkovic wouldn’t clear waivers himself but actually did.

Such is life in the first year of teams trying to navigate not only a flat salary cap but also a four- to six-player taxi squad as well.

Being flexible is a theme that has been prevalent since the Jets opened training camp earlier this month — and the twists and turns have already been plentiful.

Click to play video: 'Virtual Winnipeg Jets 50/50'
Virtual Winnipeg Jets 50/50

Going into the three-game road trip that opens with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday and the first of two against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, the Jets are already dealing with a few early curveballs.

Story continues below advertisement

Nikolaj Ehlers was the first member of the Jets to land on the COVID Protocol Related Absence list and while his availability for the season opener was in question, he passed his test and missing two skates ended up being much ado about nothing.

Then after the Jets had a scheduled day off on Friday, Saturday brought another turn when the Jets cancelled practice out of an abundance of caution because of a possible exposure to COVID-19.

When the daily list was sent out by the NHL, Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman was on it.

That doesn’t mean Poolman has COVID-19, but the situation was serious enough that he didn’t join his teammates for the trip to Ontario.

During a season where the Jets defence corps was already under some scrutiny, they’ll miss Poolman (who opened the campaign on the top pair with Josh Morrissey) for at least three of the first four games of the season — depending on how things develop this week.

“Everyone knows in any season there are going to be adjustments on the fly, injuries, all kinds of stuff, so I think you just have to be able to adapt as a player and I think that’s where communication comes in,” said Morrissey.

“We moved around a little bit in some of training camp, and a lot of the guys have been here in the past. So you just have to be ready for anything.”

Story continues below advertisement

Jets head coach Paul Maurice revealed that Dylan DeMelo was also going to miss the road trip to stay home with his wife and newborn (both of whom are doing fine).

“As you can imagine, getting people in to support and help right now is very difficult, with all of the quarantining issues,” said Maurice. “So, Dylan is going to stay home.”

DeMelo won’t make his season debut until Saturday, when the Jets return home to face the Senators in a third consecutive game.

With two experienced blue-liners out, that leaves the door wide open for 2016 first-rounder Logan Stanley to make his NHL debut against the Maple Leafs.

Dylan Samberg’s NHL debut is likely just around the corner as well, though his staying on the ice for extra work on Sunday was a sign that Stanley was going to get the first crack on the third pairing with Nathan Beaulieu.

With games on consecutive days, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see each of the defence prospects get a shot and then see what happens in Thursday’s game.

Maurice wasn’t ready to reveal which player was going to draw into the lineup against the Maple Leafs, though he did answer a separate question about what he saw from Samberg and Stanley during training camp.

Story continues below advertisement

“Both really, really good. Dylan Samberg, we don’t know. I mean, we’ve had him at development camps. But he kind of worked his way into the main group after three or four days with the smaller group. He looked strong and he’s fit right in out here,” said Maurice.

“Logan made a major, major commitment this summer to his fitness level and really showed right from the start that he was at a completely different place than at any point since we’ve had him.

“Both have had strong camps. And both are certainly in consideration now when there’s an opportunity to go in the lineup.”

St. Louis Blues Klim Kostin (37) looks on as a shot from teammate David Perron (not shown) beats Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) as Ville Heinola (36) defends to win in overtime NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, September 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Sunday’s other development saw 2019 first-rounder Ville Heinola added to the taxi squad.

Many have wondered why Heinola wouldn’t be inserted right into the Jets’ lineup, since he has more games under his belt this season than anyone on the active roster.

Story continues below advertisement

That question has a simple answer.

Despite his eight games of NHL experience last fall and his multiple seasons of playing professionally in Liiga in Finland, Heinola is just out of his mandatory quarantine following a bronze-medal performance at the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton.

Were it not for the recent time off the ice (the last game was on Jan. 5), Heinola would have been the logical choice to be at the front of the line.

However, he missed all of training camp and hasn’t been involved in a full practice with the Jets yet.

Which brings us back to Forsberg, a 28-year-old with 48 NHL games on his resume.

Although he stayed in Edmonton after he was claimed by Carolina, Forsberg still needed to complete a seven-day quarantine and pass four tests before he could join the Jets on the ice.

It remains to be seen how long Forsberg will occupy a spot on the Jets’ roster (he won’t officially be added until the weekend once his quarantine ends), but if the organization wants to try to move him to the taxi squad, he will need to be placed on waivers again.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s not a viable alternative, at least not for the time being.

Not at the rate goalies are being claimed around the NHL.

Forsberg provides an important insurance policy, even if it’s one the Jets hope they don’t have to fully take advantage of.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg Jets season preview'
Winnipeg Jets season preview

Sponsored content