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Trade Deadline Arrives on Wednesday. Does it Matter to the Jets?

Time for the Manitoba Hockey News Question of the Day: The National Hockey League trade deadline is Wednesday, April 3 at 2 p.m. CST. Does that matter to the Winnipeg Jets?

Now you all know that I just love watching the annual trade deadline shows on TSN, SportsNet and the Score. It used to be that no matter when they started or when they finished, the panelists would always have plenty to talk about. In fact, there used to be huge trades, trades that could change an entire division and sometimes a conference.

MIchal Handzus, off to Chicago.

MIchal Handzus, off to Chicago.

But since the NHL salary cap was instituted in 2005, the entire concept of the annual NHL trade deadline has changed dramatically. Unless a team is significantly under the cap, there is very little chance that it will add a number of high-priced players at the deadline. And while a team or two might consider adding some big money talent, they can’t, unless they rid themselves of their own high-priced talent. And that’s why I like watching the trade deadline shows so much.

It’s painful, but it’s very entertaining. For six-to-eight hours (depending on the network), these highly-paid, well-coiffed TV stars and ex-players talk endlessly about who’s buying and selling and then they wait. And then they start talking about buying and selling again and then they wait some more. And then somebody trades a fifth round draft pick for a winger in Hershey and then they talk about buying and selling again. And then they wait.

Jay Bouwmeester, heading to St. Louis.

Jay Bouwmeester, heading to St. Louis.

With the salary cap, blockbuster trades on deadline day seem to be unlikely.

Sure, there will be deals with veteran rent-a-players changing teams in the final year of a contract. We’ve already had a handful of those with Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla going to Pittsburgh, Michal Handzus off to Chicago, Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis and Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles. Those types of deals help one team take a run at the playoffs and the other dump a salary or acquire a prospect.

However, if you think there will be a huge six-player deal involving the game’s biggest names on deadline day, don’t hold your breath. I can tell you, not even the poor guys who are going to be stuck in front of a national audience hoping and praying for a big trade, actually believe they’re going to see one. They’re too smart for that.

Which brings us to the Winnipeg Jets. This is a team that should make a trade or two, but probably won’t.

Olli Jokinen: foiled again.

Olli Jokinen: foiled again.

Now, I’m sure, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would like to deal Ron Hainsey, Kyle Wellwood, Olli Jokinen, Nik Antropov and Antti Miettinen. The way he’s played in recent weeks, Grant Clitsome, is probably available. Trouble is, other teams have watched these guys play and, for the money, probably aren’t all that interested.

After all, Nik Antropov will make $4,062,500 according to the NHLPA and he has five goals. That’s $812,500 a goal. He’s expendable.

Nik Antopov scores his seventh of the season.

Nik Antopov scores his seventh of the season.

Ron Hainsey will make $4.5 million this season (pro-rated for the lockout, of course). Like Antropov, he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s expendable.

Olli Jokinen, who has been fabulously awful this season, has seven goals and five assists and is a minus-18 (dead last, 789th out of 789 NHL players) in 37 games. He’s making $4.5 million this year and will make $4.5 million next year. That’s theft. What’s worse is that head coach Claude Noel has him on the second power-play unit and when Tobi Enstrom was hurt, Jokinen was on the first power-play unit. Huh?

In fairness, after sitting beside an Edmonton Oilers scout in the press box on Saturday afternoon, I began to feel sorry for Jokinen.

“Olli doesn’t skate very hard,” this well-known scout said, “but I can understand why. Playing on a line with that No. 9 isn’t an easy thing to do. That’s guy’s all over the rink. You have no idea where he’s going to be.”

In 14 seasons, Jokinen has played in six playoff games. That’s not good.

Miettinen is another dandy. He doesn’t make a lot of money — $1,351,293 – but he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and he has two goals and two assists in 17 games since returning from an upper body injury and is a slick minus-three. He’s 32 and was discovered by former Minnesota Wild assistant GM Tom Thompson playing senior amateur hockey in Northern Finland. He’s 500th in scoring in the NHL and averages almost 14 minutes of ice time per game.

Ron Hainsey (Photo by Shan Coates).

Ron Hainsey (Photo by Shawn Coates). “This is my kind of team. No high priced talent… Oh, forgot about Hainsey, he’s just high priced.”

Wellwood is a nice person who tends to pass when he should shoot. Of course, passing hasn’t helped him much this season. He has two goals and seven assists and is a minus-4 (601st in the NHL). He’s not “overpaid” at $1.6 million, but then again, he’s a mediocre player who hasn’t quite reached mediocrity this season.

We can make fun of Antropov at $812,500 per goal but Wellwood is at $800,000 per goal. That’s not good.

Then there is Dustin Byfuglien. Exciting, thrilling to watch, he’s playing defense because nobody in the franchise has the cojones to say, “C’mon man, you play behind the other team’s net all night and get caught pinching all the time. You’re a forward, just play there.”

In 32 games, he’s has six goals and 15 assists (four of the goals on the power play) and is a minus-one. Then again, he’s been minus-five in the Jets last three games — three games they’ve lost.

This is a tough time for Cheveldayoff. His team is 18-17-2, still first in the Southeast Division (thankfully for the Jets, the Southeast Division is a freakin’ beer league) and third in the East. If he can win seven of his last 11, he’ll make the playoffs.

Dustin Byfuglien (Photo by Shawn Coates). Looking lost: Forward or D-Man?

Dustin Byfuglien (Photo by Shawn Coates). Looking lost: Forward or D-Man?

However, does he think he can accomplish that with this bunch? It’s a difficult question and it’s likely, that his plan is to continue along the current path and then blow it up after the season ends. After all, with Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Tobi Enstrom, Zach Bogisian, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Ondrej Pavelec all under contract for awhile, he has a solid core group.

So, like most teams, don’t expect the Jets to do much on Deadline Day. Unless, of course, Cheveldayoff can find a sucker or two to take a load of overpaid slugs off his roster.

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