With a sizable list of free agents that are in need of new contracts, the Jets are going to have to shake up their roster to make room for these new deals. Earlier this offseason, it was reported that Winnipeg is shopping forward Mathieu Perreault. Now, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports (subscription required) that they are listening to offers on Nikolaj Ehlers.
The 23-year-old is coming off the most disappointing season of his young career. A shoulder injury caused him to miss 20 games and when he was in the lineup, he wasn’t particularly productive as he posted just 21 goals and 16 assists on the campaign, numbers that were well below expectations for someone that was expected to be a fixture in the top six. Ehlers also struggled considerably in the postseason as he was held off the scoresheet in their first-round loss to St. Louis while logging less than 13 minutes a night.
With six years and $36MM left on his contract, it’s understandable that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is open to seeing what the market is for the winger. With Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers among those in need of new deals, they’re going to have to free up some money somewhere. However, there’s also some risk in potentially dealing Ehlers at a low point in terms of his value.
However, considering that he had two straight seasons of at least 60 points before 2018-19, there should still be a sizable market for Ehlers. The free agent market isn’t exactly loaded with top-six wingers, especially those that have been able to reach that point plateau. An opportunity to land a player like that with extended team control doesn’t come up too often.
As for what Winnipeg may be seeking, LeBrun speculates that a young defenseman would make sense as a target to hedge against what could happen with Trouba and Myers. It has been suggested that Trouba may not want to sign long-term with Winnipeg which, with him being one year away from UFA eligibility, makes him a trade candidate over the next couple of weeks. Myers could ultimately choose to walk on the open market next month which would leave their back end thinned out rather quickly. It’s certainly possible that Ehlers could be used to help re-solidify that position in the coming weeks.