Talk about turning a negative into a positive. In a blockbuster deal that shook up the trading-deadline aspirations of at least two teams, the Winnipeg Jets traded away an unproductive, unhappy asset – forward Evander Kane, along with defenceman Zach Bogosian and goalie prospect Jason Kasdorf – but managed to land a passel of help for the stretch drive and beyond.
Heading to Winnipeg are 6-foot-8 defenceman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, plus prospects Brendan Lemieux and Joel Armia, along with a 2015 first-round draft choice.
Lemieux is the son of former NHL playoff MVP Claude Lemieux and the 2015 pick will be the lowest of the three that the Sabres had – their own, plus selections previously acquired from the New York Islanders and the St. Louis Blues.
Myers is the key piece for Winnipeg, a 25-year-old defenceman who’d been attracting interest from around the league all year and alone was going to command a significant price.
The fact that the Jets got him, along with a short-term fix up front in Stafford, plus two quality young talents, plus an extra first-rounder in a deep draft, means they didn’t deviate much from their long-term plan of building from within.
It is the first significant trade for Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff since being named to the position in June of 2011, but it was a head turner.
There’s so much to ponder here, but first, let’s start with Kane, who had season-ending shoulder surgery last week after a confrontation with teammates on the day of a Feb. 3 game with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kane’s shoulder operation limited Cheveldayoff’s trading options, since he wasn’t able to offer him to a contending team, looking for near-term help.
Instead, he found a taker in the rebuilding Sabres, who have been out of the playoff chase since October and are in no hurry to win a lot of games down the stretch, in case it undermines their draft position.
Buffalo will give Kane a fresh start and a chance to prove that his reputation for off-ice drama will not necessarily interfere with a successful NHL career.
Kane was the fourth overall pick in 2009.
In 2008, the then Atlanta Thrashers took Bogosian with the third overall pick, just behind Drew Doughty and just ahead of Alex Pietrangelo, two players who’ve surpassed him as pros.
Buffalo took Myers at No. 12 that year, after another defenceman, Luke Schenn to Toronto, went fifth overall. The fact that Myers slipped that far had a lot to do with his perceived shortcomings as a skater, but two years later, when he made his pro debut, he had an exceptional rookie campaign, winning the Calder Trophy and putting up 48 points. The sky seemed the limit. The next year, Myers slipped to 37 points and it’s been all downhill ever since.
Even if he doesn’t get any better, he is a serviceable NHL defenceman. But if he does, his upside is enormous.
Every team inquiring about Myers secretly thought the same thing: That a change of scenery just might turn him into the next Zdeno Chara or Chris Pronger, both of whom took until their mid-20s to become genuinely elite defencemen in the NHL. If that happens in Winnipeg, it’s a home run for the Jets, no matter how well Kane develops in Buffalo. With Myers and Jacob Trouba to play on a defence corps that also included Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom, the Jets are as deep as anyone on the blue line.
Stafford, at 29, is the oldest player in the deal, who played all nine of his NHL seasons with the Sabres and topped out in 2010-11 as a 31-goal scorer. But he will likely play a top-six role for the Jets and hopefully pick up some of the scoring slack they lost when Kane went out of the line-up.
With the NHL trading deadline less than three weeks away, it is hard to imagine any deal still coming will ultimately have the impact that this one does. Both the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings had asked after Myers, in the hopes of beefing up their respective defence corps. They will now need to turn elsewhere for reinforcements.Report Typo/Error