A day after bringing veteran forward Paul Stastny back on a one-year contract and acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon in a trade, the Winnipeg Jets added another defenseman, dispatching a third-round pick in the NHL Draft in 2022 to the Vancouver Canucks to acquire Nate Schmidt on Tuesday night.
Schmidt had been a target of the Jets in the past, but they were previously one of the teams in his 10-team no-trade clause.
Interestingly enough, Schmidt joins Stastny – his former Vegas Golden Knights teammate – in giving up his no-trade clause to join the Jets.
The Jets were looking for a major defense corps upgrade during the offseason and that’s exactly what they accomplished, adding a pair of top four experienced defenders with a length of their respective contracts.
Schmidt, who turned 30 earlier this month, has four more years on a contract worth an average of $ 5.95 million annually while Dillon’s commitment is $ 3.9 million for three additional seasons.
The Minnesota product is a top player and a thorough who is known for his positive and energetic nature.
Undrafted in college, Schmidt has carved out a solid career as a reliable two-way blue liner. He’s mobile, tough to face, and has a lot of playoff experience. Best known for his defensive flair, Schmidt eclipsed 30 points three times and had five goals and 15 points in 54 games with the Canucks last season.
When it comes to projected defensive pairs, it’s clear Jets head coach Paul Maurice will have a number of options at his disposal.
Schmidt shoots from the left hand but actually prefers to play on the right side, so he will likely be used alongside Josh Morrissey or Dillon (if Morrissey ends up with the RFA waiting Neal Pionk or Dylan DeMelo.
One thing to consider is that the addition of the veterans means there is basically only one spot available on the third pairing for a group that includes Logan Stanley, 2019 first round Ville Heinola and 2018 second round Dylan. Samberg.
Stanley was protected by the Jets in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, so he has the indoor track to work as is – although he obviously faces competition for those minutes.
Heinola and / or Samberg could start next season in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, depending on how things go.
Dillon was a victim of the salary cap for the Capitals, which had to make room for the five-year contract Alex Ovechkin agreed to on Monday.
There has been a lot of talk about how Cheveldayoff would handle this offseason and it’s clear he made a serious statement to the core of players who had already signed up for the organization.
With the current contracts of Jets captain Blake Wheeler, frontline center Mark Scheifele and goalie Connor Hellebuyck all expire at the end of the 2023-24 season, the urgency to widen the window of contention is palpable.
Winning a single round since qualifying for the Western Conference Finals in 2018 just wasn’t enough and the Jets have responded accordingly.
The cost to the Jets is twofold: They were willing to move future draft capital – a second round in 2022, a third round in 2023, and a third round in 2022 (they still own the Columbus Blue Jackets’ third round in 2022. from the blockbuster Patrik Laine) and take a significant salary and tenure at a time when salary cap space is limited.
Staring at a flat cap (or close to it for the foreseeable future), the Jets sacrificed some of the future in an attempt to win now.
You can be sure these moves will resonate with Jets players.
“Every year the cap is obviously winning a Stanley Cup,” Stastny said before the deal for Schmidt was made. “I’ve said it before, everyone thinks they’re one or two pieces down, but when you’ve got a keeper like (Hellebuyck) and you’ve got the offensive firepower and some of the dynamic defenders you’re there. . There is no perfect situation, no perfect team, and I think that just shows it’s the NHL these days. There are probably 22 or 23 teams that think they’re going to win the Cup every year at the start of the year, maybe more, but that’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it competitive, that’s what makes every game so impactful.
“You see the motivation and the hunger through the guys and I think that makes a big difference too. You look at teams on paper and you don’t really know the identity or character of these players, but when you’re with these guys you realize how badly they want to win. They were there a few years ago and maybe they took a step back because they suffered so many losses in the rear just because of unfortunate and unseen events, but what happened the year last, to get a taste of what the potential could be and you want to keep building on that.
Dillon, 30, sent a similar message to reporters when he spoke to them for the first time since his profession became official.
“I’m going to a team that wants to win, think we can win, believe we’re going to be there and it’s exciting to go into a season with what are the expectations,” said Dillon, who qualified for the Stanley. Cup Final in 2016 as a member of the San Jose Sharks and has 75 playoff games to his name.
Cheveldayoff explained last week that the Jets are determined to improve and backed up that statement with action.
As free agency opens Wednesday morning, the Jets may be looking to add depth up front. Otherwise, the next agenda is to secure new deals for the pending Andrew Copp, Pionk and Stanley tenders.
Money available to the Jets is dwindling (just under $ 4.55 million with 21 of 23 spots on the roster) after this flurry of activity, but with center Bryan Little expected to head back to LTIR the next season there is a bit of wiggle room (up to an additional $ 5.291 million) to take care of other business.
In the meantime, Cheveldayoff has already crossed a few urgent items off his to-do list, including the most important.
As it stands, the Jets’ defense corps appears to have gone from weakness to potential strength in less than 24 hours.