In a surprising turn of events, the Winnipeg Jets have claimed Luca Sbisa off waivers. Sbisa was only just signing with the Anaheim Ducks after previously being without a team, but the Jets will take him instead on the same one-year, one-way $750K contract. If the Jets want to send Sbisa to the minor leagues as the Ducks had planned, they will have to try to send him through waivers again.
Sbisa, 29, will land in Winnipeg as inexpensive veteran depth for a team that has seen their defense corps ravaged over the last few months. Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot are all gone (for now at least), while Nathan Beaulieu has been dealing with injury.
The team has been using 2019 draft pick Ville Heinola as a full-time option, but the claim of Sbisa does beg the question of what happens next for the young defenseman. Heinola played just over 13 minutes against the Los Angeles Kings, and is approaching the 10-game threshold for his entry-level contract. With eight games under his belt, Heinola can play just one more before his deal would kick in and burn the first year.
Betting that Sbisa can take over that role however comes with plenty of risk. The smooth-skating defenseman has played just 39 regular season games since the start of the 2017-18 season, including just nine last year with the New York Islanders. He couldn’t find a deal this summer and had been skating with New York on a professional tryout, but that’s far from being ready for NHL game action.
With Byfuglien’s future still up in the air however, the Jets don’t have much flexibility to acquire another more expensive defender. Sbisa’s new contract comes just barely over the minimum, and can be completely buried in the minor leagues if necessary.