With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that are likely to be dealt by March 1st.
Rarely do you see a player who just signed a long-term extension get traded before that extension even kicks in, but that very well could be the case with Mathieu Perreault and the Winnipeg Jets. Entering the final season of his three-year, $9MM deal, Perreault inked a big four-year extension this summer. However, the team may have erred in not first considering the possibility of an Expansion Draft this off-season, and is facing a very real possibility that if they don’t move the veteran center, they could lose him for nothing. The Jets appear poised to protect four defenseman – Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers – leaving just four forward spots available, which will almost definitely go to Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, and Adam Lowry. TSN was the first to report the high likelihood of a Perrault trade, and he remains on their “Trade Bait List“. But is there a market for his services in-season?
Perreault will enter the first year of a four-year, $16.5MM extension in 2017-18. Currently, he is in the final year of his previous three-year, $9MM deal. That annual $3MM cap hit will be pro-rated to under $900K at the Trade Deadline, but will then jump back up to $4.125MM for the next four seasons.
Hurting Perreault’s “tradability” in 2016-17 is a noticeable drop-off in production. If the Jets had chosen to trade the play-making pivot last spring, they would have brought in quite the haul in draft capital. Perreault had back-to-back 41-point seasons to begin his tenure in Winnipeg and was in the midst of potentially the best season of his career with career highs in assists, power play points, and ice time. He also had a year remaining on his deal at an affordable cap hit. This season? Not so much. Perreault now carries a four years at $4.25MM and does not have the stats to back up the cost. In between missing time with injuries this season, Perreault has registered just 17 points in 40 games, which may as well be canceled out by his career-worst -17 rating. However, Perreault is still considered a high-end play-maker and a power play specialist, and his cap hit at his previous numbers is more than tolerable. If Perreault can pick up his play down the stretch and improve on a dismal performance so far, interest will heat up in no time.
40 GP, 4 goal, 13 assists, 17 points, -17 rating, 83 shots, 15:31 ATOI
Adding players with term on their contract is easier said than done this season. With the Expansion Draft weighing on everyone’s decisions this deadline season, no one is going to pay a lot for a player they then stand to lose for nothing if he doesn’t fit into their protection scheme. Perreault could prove to be a difficult addition for many teams.
The New York Islanders have really felt the loss of center Frans Nielsen this season and desperately need some depth at center. They also have some flexibility in the expansion process and have the salary cap space to accommodate his cap hit. Perrault down the middle behind John Tavares would be quite an upgrade over Casey Cizikas and Alan Quine this year and in the future.
If the Montreal Canadiens miss out on their rumored top target of Martin Hanzal and don’t want to pony up for Matt Duchene, they could come calling for Perreault. With Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais showing clear signs of decline, the Habs are desperate for depth down the middle going forward. Montreal is reportedly “all in” at the Trade Deadline, so a move to bring in a big-time center would come with no surprise, though the salary cap implications would need to be closely monitored.
Another strong candidate, though a Western Conference foe, is the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are perusing the center market as well, and could use depth behind Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. Cap space is not as big an issue for L.A. who could really solidify their top nine by adding Perreault to the mix.
Likelihood Of A Trade
Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has shown a willingness to make big moves, especially when the pressure is on, and there is no greater pressure than potentially losing a key player for nothing in the Expansion Draft. However, that same draft makes moving a long-term player like Perreault much more difficult than moving an impending free agent. As the Jets sink further and further into the basement of the Western Conference, the more likely it will become that Cheveldayoff stops working on ways to keep Perreault and starts looking for ways to trade him. The difficulty in doing so makes this move far from a sure thing though.