Things are heating up as the NHL trade deadline is just mere hours away. The Winnipeg Jets haven’t been mentioned as much as some, but as any experienced NHL fan knows, anything can happen on D-Day.
Mark Stuart has been a consistent contributor for the Winnipeg Jets in each season since the move north, providing a physical presence and leadership on and off the ice. With the Jets looking towards the future at the deadline, is Stuart expendable to the right buyer?
A small ripple was made when it was reported that Anaheim Ducks scouts were at Jets games, taking stock of Stuart. The Ducks picked up 37-year old Stephane Robidas from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, taking them out of the rental defenseman conversation. However, similar playoff-bound teams such as the Boston Bruins, and Pittsburgh Penguins, who were also in the hunt for Robidas, may take aim at Stuart in the coming hours.
Stuart will be an Unrestricted Free Agent after this season, and is 29 years of age. Although he is not yet 30, he has been a prominent voice in the Jets’ locker room for the past couple of years. He plays in a top-four role with the Jets, something many fans think should change, instead putting him inside the top six.
Stuart eats a lot of minutes against the opposition’s best players, and often plays upwards of 4:00 of short-handed time in a night. Teams are looking for poise and physicality, something Stuart possesses at a relatively cheap ticket.
The Jets could ask for a second or third-round pick in return for Stuart, or package an AHL player and a high-round pick. Alternatively, they could sign Stuart to a two-year bridge deal, and have him continue to provide leadership, although in a diminishing role with defensive prospect Josh Morrissey expected to make the jump sometime in the next two seasons.
Stuart’s agent, Matt Keator, spoke of his client’s short-term future last night:
“[We] have had some good discussions and we’ll see where things go. Mark loves Winnipeg and has made it clear that he wants to stay if a fair deal can be reached.”
Keator also said that he and the Jets have talked about negotiating a contract extension in the future.
It seems unlikely, as the Jets are reluctant to trade Stuart, but if a team with a prospect pool as deep as the Penguins or Bruins comes in, GM Kevin Chevaldayoff will certainly entertain it.
As always, thanks for reading. For more Winnipeg Jets conversation and live game updates follow us on twitter @hkyattheforks.