Barring any further changes that would affect their schedule over the next four days, the Winnipeg Jets are down to their final two games Thursday and Saturday in Montreal before the expiration of the NHL trading deadline at 2 p.m. CT on Monday afternoon.
And it would seem more likely than not, the Jets will go into the final month (or so) of their regular season with at least one and possibly two new faces added to their much-talked-about defence corps.
It is no secret that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is trying to land a top-four calibre defender, and preferably a right-handed shot. And if there is still enough cap space available, acquiring an experienced depth-type rearguard would also not be out of the question.
There’s not much doubt the Jets would be far better positioned to take a “run at the roses” so to speak with a David Savard, Josh Manson or Brandon Montour on board. But if a deal of that magnitude can’t be done without having to part with a Ville Heinola or Cole Perfetti, then going to a Plan B for a player or players along the lines of a Matt Irwin, Michael Stone, Travis Hamonic or maybe even an Andrej Sekera, who can play both sides, but is signed through 2022.
As the Jets are constructed presently, they have Josh Morrissey, Derek Forbort and Logan Stanley on the left side, with right-shot partners Tucker Poolman, Neal Pionk and Dylan DeMelo, respectively. And on the depth chart, Sami Niku, Heinola and Dylan Samberg are all left-shot defencemen, while veteran journeyman Nelson Nogier shoots from the right.
It’s not the end of the word if someone has to play on their off side. But it’s also not ideal if Poolman, Pionk or DeMelo were to go down for any length of time and the Jets coaching staff was forced into that kind of a move down the stretch while battling for playoff positioning. Or especially once the tournament begins for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Is it do-or-die time in terms of Winnipeg’s window? Not really. Starting next season, the Jets still have Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck on very team-friendly contracts for another three years before they become unrestricted free agents. So let’s say it’s closer to a “bay window” of opportunity for this current configuration to go on a championship run.
But there may never be another opportunity like the one the Jets find themselves in during this unique pandemic season. They are right there with as deep a set of forwards as there is in the NHL, backstopped by a reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.
So Cheveldayoff is at the plate with a hitter’s count — and he’s looking to swing for the fences. But if he gets to two strikes, he may have to choke up on that Louisville Slugger, just to make sure he at least gets on base.