Though this message became increasingly more obvious as the season progressed, the Winnipeg Jets made it crystal-clear early Monday afternoon that the team is all-in.
The Jets mortgaged a couple of draft picks, including a 2018 first-rounder, and mid-tier prospect Erik Foley to acquire pending unrestricted free agent centre Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues. The move signals that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets’ brass realize that this could be “their year,” and are not afraid to move a (late) first-rounder for a more-than-adequate centre who cements Winnipeg as the Western Conference’s strongest club down the middle.
Not only does the trio of Stastny, Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little — with Adam Lowry now set to anchor the fourth unit — give Winnipeg the league’s second-deepest group of centremen aside from the Penguins, it also elevates the team’s top-nine into the NHL’s upper echelon. Looking around the league, it’s hard to find a group of forwards you would rather have than the one which the team boasts right now.
The Jets now have the luxury of running out Scheifele, Little and Stastny with an explosive group of wingers, including Blake Wheeler (72 points), Patrik Laine (31 goals) and talented rookie Jack Roslovic on the right side, and Mathieu Perrault (37 points, 58.0 CF%), Kyle Connor (22 goals) and Nicolaj Ehlers (46 points) occupying the left wing.
While Stastny has a quiet 40 points for the Blues this season, he will be relied upon mostly for his defensive awareness, playmaking prowess and abilities along the wall and in the face-off dots as the Jets gear up to go on what they expect to be a lengthy postseason run. Over his last three campaigns, all with the Blues, Stastny has posted 66 even-strength assists, 1.26 primary points/60, while going just under 56-percent on draws in 193 games where he averaged exactly 19 minutes TOI.
It’s a fairly big price to pay for a rental, but what will likely be a bottom-five fist-rounder in a so-so draft is a more-than-fair price to pay for a 32-year-old with 55 playoff games under his belt who can produce at both ends of the rink, and solidifies your top-nine group as arguably the NHL’s best.
From the Blues side of things, it’s a bit strange to flip a fairly important player to Central Division rival while St. Louis sits in a fierce battle for a playoff spot. However, the ability to secure a first-round pick and shed the remaining cash on a player who wasn’t in the team’s plans beyond this year was too good an opportunity to pass up for Doug Armstrong and the Blues management team.
As 3 p.m. EST approaches, this deal (so far) marks the biggest deal of an otherwise sleepy deadline day.
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