Jets & Panthers May Produce A Blockbuster Commerce

The Winnipeg Jets are rolling early in 2023. They have won five of their last six contests and rank second in the Western Conference in points percentage. As the trade deadline inches closer, it is time to look at some potential moves for the Jets to make. That brings us to Florida, where the struggling Panthers reportedly need to shed cap space to prepare themselves for the summer.

Sam Reinhart Would Put the Jets Firmly in Contention

The club still needs to find their rhythm offensively, with Nikolaj Ehlers, Cole Perfetti, and Blake Wheeler returning from injury. However, Sam Reinhart would be a perfect fit for the Jets’ top six, and the cap-strapped Panthers may need to move him out of necessity.

Reinhart is coming off a career year in 2021-22 when he put up 33 goals and 82 points in 78 games. He played a huge role in the team finishing with the best record in the NHL and winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reinhart has been nothing short of outstanding this season. His team may be struggling to stay at .500, but he still has 27 points in 41 games. Natural Stat Trick shows that his Corsi percentage, expected goals percentage, and scoring chances for percentage are all above 55 percent.

An addition of this magnitude would elevate the Jets’ forward core to one of the best in the NHL. Combine that with the dominant seasons that Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey are enjoying, and the time has never been better for the Jets to go “all-in.”

Jets Well-Equipped to Make Big Trade

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has not been afraid to buy at the deadline in years past, and I imagine this year will be no different. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele, and Hellebuyck’s contracts are all set to expire within the next two seasons, and there is no guarantee they will return.

Related: Panthers May Need to Make Drastic Moves to Obtain Cap Space

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Goalies are hard to predict, and although Hellebuyck is having a dominant season, there is no way to know if he will have a season of this magnitude again. With his contract set to expire in 2023-24, now is the time for the organization to capitalize on his prime years as a goaltender.

Money Puck has the former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender ranked third in the league in goals saved above expected with 19.4, trailing only Juuse Saros and Linus Ullmark.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg JetsConnor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Heading into the Detroit Red Wings game on Jan 10, Hellebuyck had a 20-9-1 record and was enjoying career highs in save percentage at .928 and goals-against average with 2.30. He then let in six goals, 4.9 more than expected. Goaltending is weird, but the Jets should be willing to double down on their superstar goalie.

Given the start they have enjoyed, the organization should be viewing this season as a prime opportunity to win multiple playoff series. The Western Conference is unpredictable, as teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers have struggled, but the Jets are in a prime position to win the conference, and a big trade could put them over the top.

Jets Potential Return in a Trade for Reinhart

For years, the Jets’ defence prospects have been floated around in trade talks. The Panthers’ blue line is one of the most depleted in the NHL after losing Mackenzie Weegar. Outside of Aaron Eklbad and Brandon Montour, they need help on the back end. Young defence prospects like Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, and Declan Chisholm could all be involved in a deal along with picks.

The price may be cheaper than expected as the Panthers will be desperate to break free from their cap problems. Having Reinhart’s contract off the books would hurt the team this season and next, but it would be a lifeline for any additions they might want to make in the offseason, and this should help the Jets mightily in trade negotiations, in a deal that could take place closer to the trade deadline.

Connor Hrabchak is 20 years old and is currently covering the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He is working towards completing his communications and media degree. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s been watching hockey ever since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that has inspired him to write about the sport and attempt to make it into a full-time career.

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