The frustrating inconsistency of the Winnipeg Jets has local pundits calling on management to shake things up.
Evander Kane has been a subject of Jets trade chatter this season, but the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen and the Winnipeg Free Press’ Gary Lawless believe defenseman Dustin Byfuglien should be dealt. The pair acknowledged Byfuglien’s obvious offensive skills, but feel his unwillingness to improve his defensive game hurts the Jets.
Lawless suggested GM Kevin Cheveldayoff should try moving Byfuglien for the best possible return and believes ‘Big Buff’ could help teams in need of an offensive blueliner or a power play specialist. Friesen was more blunt, saying if Cheveldayoff isn’t trying to trade Byfuglien he’s not trying to improve the Jets.
The Jets have dropped four straight games and are eight points out of a wild card berth in the Western Conference. They’ll need a considerably better effort throughout the remainder of the season to make the playoffs.
Trading Byfuglien could be the shakeup they need. If they seek a roster player, Lawless speculated the big defenseman could land either a second- or third-pairing defenseman (along with a third-round pick) or a top-six forward and a late pick.
Byfuglien isn’t the only one considered to be a trade candidate. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reported Cheveldayoff could move pending free agents Devin Setoguchi, Olli Jokinen and Mark Stuart, though rival clubs are more interested in Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler who, like Byfuglien, are under long-term contracts.
The final decision, of course, rests with Cheveldayoff. He’s been very patient with his roster and resisted calls for sweeping changes. He can ignore the columnists, but not the growing impatience among Jets fans. Changes should come if they miss the playoffs again, which could include moving a star like Byfuglien.
SHOULD THE BLUESHIRTS MOVE TWO BLUE CHIP ASSETS?
New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi’s contract status is making him a fixture in this season’s rumor mill.
Girardi and teammate Ryan Callahan are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks noted their importance to the Rangers, but wondered if they would be more valuable as trade chips. He suggested the Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks could have interest in Girardi, while Callahan could attract attention from the Pittsburgh Penguins or St. Louis Blues.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman cited sources claiming the Ducks are interested in Girardi and believed the Bruins would come calling. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch also considered the Bruins a suitor for the 29-year-old blueliner.
Girardi and Callahan will certainly be expensive re-signings for the Rangers. The Blueshirts don’t look like a Stanley Cup contender this season, which explains Brooks’ suggestion to deal the pair for younger, affordable talent. However, the Rangers have climbed back into the Eastern Conference playoff race and as long as they’re in contention, Girardi and Callahan aren’t going anywhere.
Michael Del Zotto remains the Rangers defenseman most likely to be dealt, though it could take weeks if the asking price remains a top-four defenseman.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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