Manitoba Madness

By Nick Fathergill

Tyler Myers scored his first goal as a Winnipeg Jet Tuesday night, and Buffalo Sabres fans everywhere groaned.

Just five days after ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported a blockbuster trade between Winnipeg and Buffalo (Jets send LW Evander Kane, D Zach Bogosian, and G Jason Kasdorf to Sabres for Myers, F Drew Stafford, F Joel Armia and F Brendan Lemieux (both in the minor leagues), and a 2015 first-round pick), the 25-year-old defenseman has three points in three games (NHL.com). In 47 games with Buffalo this season, Myers only managed 13 points and a -15 rating (NHL.com). While the deal shocked the hockey world, it made perfect sense for two teams with different objectives: to make the playoffs (Winnipeg) and to build a future (Buffalo).

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The Jets currently sit at 4th place in the NHL Central and 5th place overall in the Western Conference (NHL.com). With a three point lead over the 6th place Vancouver Canucks and the 7th place Calgary Flames, four ahead of the 8th place San Jose Sharks, and six over the Los Angeles Kings (the first team out, according to NHL.com), the ‘Peg is in control of its own destiny. This trade makes it just a little bit easier for that destiny to be realized.

Myers has been the participant of many trade rumors in recent years. The 6-8, 227 pounder (nbcsports.com) won the Calder Trophy in his debut season and brings plenty of offensive upside to the table as well. In his first two seasons in the league, Myers exploded for 85 points and a +13 rating (NHL.com). However, the lack of a talented supporting cast has hurt his production since. The future-minded Sabres simply needed to deal the big blueliner in order to find the pieces to move forward.

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The Jets aren’t just reaping the rewards of obtaining Myers, but Stafford as well. The 29-year-old forward provided a regulation goal in the Jets’ 5-4 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, and finished it off in the shootout at well (NHL.com). The former 30-goal scorer has dropped off in scoring as of late (no more than 34 points in a season since 2011-12, NHL.com), but again, the situation in Buffalo has done nothing to help him.

The loss of Evander Kane in the future could be devastating, but many factors led to his being dealt. For one, the difficult youngster allegedly got into a massive argument with teammate Dustin Byfuglien recently and subsequently skipped the team’s game against Vancouver. Additionally, Kane is out for the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery. As far as this campaign goes, the loss of the former 30-goal scorer is not an issue.

Zach Bogosian, on the other hand, could be an irreplaceable piece. The hard-hitting defenseman teamed up with Byfuglien to form one of the most fearsome defensive pairings in all of hockey. In his first game as a Sabre on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, Bogosian alone had 11 hits, most on the Sabres all season (diebytheblade.com). However, the addition of Myers as an imposing presence (much like Bogosian) softens the wound a bit.

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It’s quite clear the Jets made this move while thinking about the current season. In the future, they may even regret the deal (if Buffalo ends up drafting Connor McDavid, who then turns Kane into a 40-goal man), but for now, it seems to be good for both teams. Sabres fans applauded the courage of GM Tim Murray to get the injured Kane, while the Jets got better this year. Losing Bogosian to acquire Myers and Stafford (essentially, since Armia and Lemieux won’t see NHL time this year) gives the Jets a better shot to make the playoffs.

Either way, the Winnipeg Jets just acquired 3 former first-round picks (Myers, Armia, Stafford), an early second-round pick (Lemieux), and a 2015 first-rounder (NHL.com). Not a bad week.

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