With the trade deadline coming up in one week, it has been rumoured that the Jets are interested in acquiring a defenceman. The Mattias Ekholm rumours seem to have cooled a bit, as it seems the Nashville Predators want to keep him since going on a bit of a heater putting themselves in a playoff spot. With that said, the market isn’t short of blueliners that could improve the team.
Let’s have a look at some. I will include a chart with each player’s Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM) results from Evolving-Hockey just for some context. For those who don’t know, RAPM estimates a player’s impact on goals for (GF), expected goals for and against (xGF and xGA), and shot attempts, also known as Corsi, for and against (CF and CA). These metrics are obviously far from everything, but they typically do a pretty decent job of showing what players are driving play when given a big enough sample of gameplay.
LD, Vince Dunn (cap hit: $1.875M, RFA 2021)
Vince Dunn is a defenceman who can defend, is very good in transition, and regularly jumps into the play offensively. While he has had a down season, at 24 years old, he could be an excellent player for the Jets, for more than just this season, if they were to acquire him.
He could fit really well with a player like Dylan DeMelo. DeMelo isn’t quite as strong in the transition game but is such a steady defender and is great at holding the line in the offensive zone, so if Dunn can take over the role of being more involved offensively and be the primary puck carrier it could work out really well.
It was rumoured earlier of in the season that the Blues were looking for a first round draft pick in return. My initial thought is that seems very inexpensive for a guy who has a great chance at being a good top four defenceman for a number of years, especially considering the 2021 draft is generally being looked at as a weaker one.
RD, David Savard (cap hit: $4.25M, UFA 2021)
A stay-at-home defenceman in every sense of the word, David Savard could be an interesting fit on the Jets. He is one of the better in-zone defenders in the NHL, and would likely be a solid penalty killer.
I have two reasons I don’t think Savard would be the greatest acquisition though. The first reason is he doesn’t fill the need of a good transition defenceman. The second is he would likely slot in for Tucker Poolman on that pairing with Josh Morrissey, and I believe DeMelo would be the better option in that spot. I think there’s a chance he might look like a slightly better version of Poolman.
I think it would help the team, but the left side of their defence needs more help than the right side, and they could simply improve the impact of their right side by putting DeMelo in the top four in place of Poolman.
RD, Josh Manson (cap hit: $4.1M, UFA 2022)
Josh Manson has a modified no-trade clause which states he would have to submit a list of 12 teams he could not be traded to, so that would add a question mark. Nonetheless, he would be an interesting piece to look at.
His underlying numbers appear relatively average. I wonder if he wouldn’t be a better fit on this Jets team than his numbers suggest given his style of play though. He is an effective, physical defender who can kill penalties, but most importantly, he has been a pretty good transition defenceman in the past. This intrigues me specifically from the standpoint of having a defenceman that can form an effective duo with Josh Morrissey. Having a guy who is stylistically similar to Jacob Trouba might be just what’s needed to do that.
Manson has battled injuries over the past two seasons, so maybe that ends up being a deterrent for the Jets, but he would be an intriguing piece.
LD, Jamie Oleksiak (cap hit: $2.1375M, UFA 2021)
Oleksiak is a towering defenceman who defends well, and had one exceptional season at preventing shots and chances against in 2019-20. Otherwise he’s been a lot closer to average.
He would almost certainly be an upgrade on Derek Forbort, and would be an interesting fit beside Neal Pionk. Pionk is a bit more of an aggressive defender who’s more involved offensively, and Oleksiak is a solid presence defending the front of the net.
He likely wouldn’t cost a ton, and would provide an upgrade in a spot the Jets certainly need it.
LD, Mike Reilly (cap hit: $1.5M, UFA 2021)
My personal favourite target for the Jets would be Mike Reilly. His shot and expected goal impacts have quietly taken off over the past two seasons. It doesn’t seem to matter who he plays with, they just get better results when paired with Reilly.
Reilly is a very strong transition player who is very involved offensively, and his defensive impact has improved this season as well.
I think he would make a great partner for Dylan DeMelo, much for the same reasons I think Vince Dunn would. Another intriguing option could be for the Jets to switch DeMelo back with Josh Morrissey, and make Reilly a partner for Tucker Poolman. I’m thinking the Jets might be able to form three effective defence pairings with Morrissey-DeMelo, Forbort-Pionk, and Reilly-Poolman.
The bottom line is, he would add an offensive element, and a transition game the Jets are badly missing from their blue line, and it would likely cost very little.