WINNIPEG – In the end, there was no big splash made by the Winnipeg Jets.
With all due respect to versatile veteran Jordie Benn, his addition barely even qualifies as a ripple in this trade-deadline pool.
At a time when the Jets are firmly established as a contender in the North Division, the overriding belief was that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was poised to take a big swing to help improve his defence corps.
Cheveldayoff surveyed the market and made calls around the league, checking in on a number of different options, both on the rental market and for players with some term on their remaining contracts.
Ultimately, though, he decided to bank on his internal options, reinforcing his belief that this defence corps is greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s a choice that doesn’t come without risk, but it’s also a nod to his belief in the current group and some of the high-end prospects in the pipeline.
At a time when Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs clearly pushed their chips into the middle of the table by adding forwards Nick Foligno and Stefan Noesen, defenceman Ben Hutton and goalie David Rittich, Cheveldayoff wasn’t willing to sacrifice big pieces of the future in order to potentially improve in the present.
This shouldn’t come as a complete shock.
Going into the deadline, Ville Heinola was considered to be untouchable — even if he was the guy most teams were probably asking about when it came to queries about D-men who fit the description of what the Jets would be looking for.
Even if the Jets had been able to find a longer-term solution, Cheveldayoff was clearly reluctant to move a top prospect if it wasn’t in another blockbuster.
When considering the Jets traded three former first-round picks (Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic and Jacob Trouba) since the summer of 2019, it’s easy to understand the hesitation for a team that relies on the draft, development and retention model.
Those moves all represent a significant drain on their internal resources, plus there is an expansion draft this summer to consider.
Will the lack of a notable move come back to haunt the Jets given they have many observers consider a more direct path to the Final 4 through the North Division?
It certainly could, but the Jets have shown they are a capable club and don’t lack confidence or offensive weaponry.
With the Jets in Ottawa to continue a five-game road trip against the Senators, defenceman Dylan DeMelo reinforced his belief in the current group.
“Any time management goes out and gets a player they feel can help the team going forward, I think it’s just a boost for everybody, and that’s a testament to how hard we’ve worked and the position we’ve put ourselves into,” DeMelo said following the morning skate and before the addition of Benn was announced. “We all know our forward position’s pretty strong, and I know people say our defensive depth isn’t as good, but I would say that’s probably more because of how strong our goaltending is and how strong our forward group is. I think our defence has done a really good job this year, kind of by committee, and has done a really good job of stepping up to play really well.”
Benn brings experience and is comfortable playing on either the left (his natural side) or the right side.
He’s likely an insurance policy after Nathan Beaulieu was lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Given the progression of 2016 first-rounder Logan Stanley, it’s likely Benn begins his tenure with the Jets as the seventh defenceman.
There’s no doubt the Jets still have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to their collective defensive game.
Strides have been taken, but more will be required in order for the Jets to go on a playoff run that includes winning multiple rounds.
What also can’t be ignored is that the Jets still have one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL and that goalie Connor Hellebuyck remains the great equalizer, given the Vezina-like level he continues to play at.
The Jets will continue to be a team to be reckoned with, and they should be a tough out — even without a headlining addition.
By not making a move to bolster that top four, Cheveldayoff has left himself open to criticism if things don’t work during the playoffs.
He also didn’t make a deal he might end up regretting.
Either option meant rolling the dice to a certain degree, and the truth of the matter is we won’t really know if the decision was the right one for quite some time.