Examining Jets’ potential trade targets from Hurricanes – Sportsnet.ca

WINNIPEG – One by one, as teams have been bounced from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the focus turns to the future.

For some general managers, that means identifying another potential trade target because when a team falls short of the end goal, changes are generally made.

This isn’t about making radical moves in the wake of playoff disappointment, but changes are coming, even for clubs that advanced to the final four.

Which brings us back to the Winnipeg Jets, who appear to have the kind of high-end pieces that could be available on the trade market in the weeks leading into the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville.

The Jets’ season has been over for nearly two rounds after they were eliminated in five games by the Vegas Golden Knights.

By now, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff probably has a better indication of what direction players like goalie Connor Hellebuyck, centres Mark Scheifele and Pierre-Luc Dubois and former captain Blake Wheeler are leaning toward when it comes to their futures.

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Based on those conversations, which Cheveldayoff certainly isn’t going to share publicly at this time, you can be sure that he and his staff will be sizing up which teams could be a fit when it comes to this edition of Let’s Make A Deal.

There will be plenty of time to dig deep into some of the other options, but recent events point to the Carolina Hurricanes as a team that could move to the top of the list when it comes to one or two of the particular players.

The Hurricanes had another outstanding regular season, holding off the New Jersey Devils to win the Metropolitan Division before advancing to the Eastern Conference final for the second time in four seasons.

Only the Boston Bruins (135) had more points during the regular season than the Hurricanes (113).

Winning eight playoff games is an impressive achievement, especially when you consider the injuries the organization dealt with down the stretch and then into the playoffs, where Teuvo Teravainen missed nine games before returning for Game 1 against the Florida Panthers.

But it’s still eight wins shy of the ultimate goal.

Halfway there.

The Hurricanes play a highly structured defensive game and also play at an incredibly high pace, complete with a tenacious forecheck.

Against the Panthers, it’s obvious they ran into a red-hot goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky and had trouble finding the back of the net, which naturally put their offence under the spotlight after they managed to score six goals in that four-game sweep.

Would having Andrei Svechnikov and/or Max Pacioretty help boost those totals?

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Chances are pretty high, but that doesn’t make the offseason decisions any easier for Hurricanes GM Don Waddell.

The list of pending unrestricted free agents includes goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, defencemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Calvin De Haan and forwards Jordan Staal (also the team captain), Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast.

The list of pending unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2024 is where things get even more complicated for the Hurricanes.

That’s when franchise centre Sebastian Aho, fellow forwards Teuvo Teravainen, Stefan Noesen, and Jordan Martinook and defencemen Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and Jalen Chatfield require new deals.

Which brings us back to the Jets, who have some difficult decisions of their own to sort through.

The Hurricanes will be looking to get clarity from foundational pillars like Aho, but they probably will also take a couple of big swings here when it comes to loading up for a Stanley Cup run next season.

That’s where one of – or potentially both of – Hellebuyck and Scheifele could factor in.

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Let’s start in the crease, where the Hurricanes essentially operated with a budget of $6.5 million for Andersen and Raanta, then used goalie of the future Pyotr Kochetkov on his entry-level deal when injuries allowed him to get into 24 games (compared to 34 for Andersen and 27 for Raanta).

Kochetkov is the only one of the three under contract for next season, when his three-year extension that carries an AAV of $2 million kicks in.

Clearly, the Hurricanes aren’t afraid to operate with a No. 1 (or No. 2) guy going into the final year of his contract, which means one season of Hellebuyck could be right in the wheelhouse here.

That would provide the Hurricanes with one of the best goalies in the NHL, on a one-year deal worth $6.167 million – a manageable number (not to mention a solid value), which would represent a modest increase for the position when combined with the salary of Kochetkov.

One would imagine that playing in front of a defence as solid as the Hurricanes would help reduce the shot volume and shot quality Hellebuyck would face and having someone they believe in like Kochetkov means he can easily shoulder a load in the range of 25-30 games – which could keep Hellebuyck fresh for a lengthy post-season run.

Whether or not the Hurricanes are a long-term fit remains to be seen and it’s probably unlikely since Hellebuyck is expected to be among the highest-paid goalies in the NHL in his next deal.

But that’s not necessarily a deterrent for a team that is clearly in win-now mode.

The Hurricanes would enjoy the one season of peak-Hellebuyck and then see where things go, especially if they expect Kochetkov could be ready to shoulder the load in 2024-25.

As for Scheifele, being one season out of UFA status for the first time of his career means that he will be highly motivated to put together an outstanding campaign.

Although this was the first time in seven seasons that he didn’t produce at a point-per-game rate, he delivered a career-high 42 goals and remains an elite offensive talent.

On the surface, Scheifele doesn’t necessarily fit into the defensive-zone commitment that Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour demands of his players.

Perhaps Brind’Amour is the type of coach that could inspire Scheifele to fully round out his 200-foot game.

There were glimpses of it under Jets head coach Rick Bowness last season and Brind’Amour certainly has been able to bring out the best in many players during his tenure.

Now comes the tough part: what might the Hurricanes be willing to offer in return for Hellebuyck and/or Scheifele?

The Jets will be looking for a combination of present and future assets in any of the off-season deals they make.

For the record, Winnipegger Seth Jarvis would be high on the ask list for the Jets but he won’t likely be available after his strong performance in these playoffs, especially as a homegrown talent who is just completing his entry-level deal.

Let’s explore some of the other options that could be on the table.

Martin Necas

A high-end 24-year-old forward who is a restricted free agent, Necas is coming off his most productive NHL season, one which included 28 goals, 43 assists and 71 points.

So why on earth would the Hurricanes move the guy that led them in scoring? They probably won’t, but he’s looking for a new deal and probably a significant raise after earning $3 million in each of the past two seasons on a bridge deal.

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Chosen 12th in the 2017 NHL Draft, Necas has already accumulated 48 playoff games during the past four seasons. Things were a bit quiet offensively for Necas this spring, finishing with four goals and seven points in 15 games. He only had one point in the Eastern Conference final and was limited to one total in his past five playoff games.

Don’t confuse that with not being a playoff performer. This is a young player who is just scratching the surface and is likely to continue to blossom during the coming seasons.

Used mostly on the wing this season in Carolina, Necas is a natural centre and that makes him a potential target for the Jets. The only reason Necas is mentioned as a possibility is because of the cap crunch that could be coming, depending on what this summer brings for the Hurricanes.

Teuvo Teravainen

The Jets interest in the Finnish forward dates back to the NHL trade deadline in 2016, when they tried to acquire him in the deal for Andrew Ladd from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks balked and sent Marko Dano and a first-rounder instead, but later had to move Teravainen and Bryan Bickell in a salary-cap move in June.

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Teravainen has been an outstanding fit with the Hurricanes, where he’s been a smart two-way player whose offensive game has blossomed. His numbers dipped this season to 13 goals and 37 points in 68 games but he’s eclipsed 60 points on four occasions and is one season removed from a career-high 22 goals.

Teravainen, who will turn 29 in September, plays in all situations and also has 79 Stanley Cup playoff games on his roster. He’s an important player and a Stanley Cup winner in 2015, so he’d be a guy you would expect the Jets to be interested in if an extension was a possibility.

Brett Pesce

It wasn’t long ago when the Jets were believed to be interested in the dependable blue-liner and the problem was that the Hurricanes were said to be asking for Nikolaj Ehlers in return at the NHL Draft in the summer of 2019.

Ehlers isn’t going to be available this season either, but Pesce remains an outstanding shutdown D-man and would be of interest – especially if he was interested in a contract extension this summer.

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With an extension, Pesce would be a perfect partner for Josh Morrissey, especially when you consider the Jets will need to make a decision on Dylan DeMelo (who is a pending UFA in 2024).

It’s unlikely the Hurricanes are interested in moving Pesce and his inclusion in a deal wouldn’t make sense for the Jets without an extension.

2023 or 2024 first-rounder

The Hurricanes will have the 30th pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and acquiring it would allow the Jets to have an opportunity to choose twice in the first round for a second straight year.

Would Winnipeg prefer to be in the 20s if they acquire a second first-rounder this year? Of course, but the Jets found forward Brad Lambert at 30th in 2022, so there will still be plenty of talent at the bottom of the first round next month in Nashville.

Should the Jets prefer to defer the pick, the chances are that it could be near the bottom of the 2024 draft as well, so it’s more likely that 2023 would be the preferred route. The Hurricanes also have their second-rounder in 2023 and two seconds in 2024 (including one previously belonging to the Philadelphia Flyers).

Scott Morrow

A second-round selection (40th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft, the right-handed shooting defenceman has enjoyed consecutive 30-plus point seasons with the UMass-Amherst Minutemen – finishing as the team’s leading scorer as a sophomore.

A smart puck mover who has worked hard on his defensive game, he could supply a boost to the right side in the Jets organization once he’s ready to graduate from the college game (if he’s included in a potential deal). He’s currently listed as 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and is still growing into his frame as someone who won’t turn 21 until November.

Given the contract situations on the blue line discussed earlier, the Hurricanes won’t be interested in moving Morrow but that doesn’t mean he won’t be asked about.

Ryan Suzuki

The Jets missed out on the opportunity to select Nick Suzuki in the 2017 NHL Draft when they flipped picks with the Vegas Golden Knights to convince them to avoid selecting defenceman Toby Enstrom in the NHL Expansion Draft.

The Jets ended up with Kristian Vesalainen that year and the interesting thing about that is that the 17th overall pick in 2017 might be someone the Jets are looking to move in the offseason, but I digress.

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Ryan Suzuki is a left-handed shooting centre who played his junior hockey with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League and was chosen 28th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Suzuki spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League and he’s dealt with a variety of injuries to date. While his offensive totals haven’t jumped off the page, he posted career highs in goals (13), assists (19) and points (32) in 50 AHL games last season.

Suzuki wouldn’t be the primary target but maybe he’s a guy who could benefit from a fresh start and he could be a secondary piece in a package.

Jackson Blake

A fourth round selection (109th overall) of the Hurricanes in 2021 from the Chicago Steel program in the USHL, the son of longtime NHLer Jason Blake is coming off a strong freshman campaign with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (leading his team in scoring with 16 goals, 42 points in 39 games), adding six points in seven games with Team USA during the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Jets could use some organizational depth at right wing and the soon-to-be 20 year old winger would be able to provide that down the road once he’s finished with his collegiate career.