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Winnipeg Jets providing blueprint on handling devastating injuries

The injury bug paid a visit to Winnipeg and left a six-to-eight week piece of adversity on the doorstep of the Jets on Monday

The Jets announced that top defenseman Jacob Trouba will be sidelined for up to two months with a lower-body injury he picked up last Thursday, handing the Central Division-leading Jets the third such lengthy diagnosis this season.

Losing your No. 1 center and your top-line defenseman in a span of a month is less than favorable, but if any team has shown the blueprint to dealing with seemingly massive blows to a roster this season, it’s the Jets.

They’ll certainly need to refer to it going forward.

Perhaps the most impressive trait when it comes to their ascent to the top of the Central has been their ability to navigate the harsh realities that come with each and every NHL season.

Injuries have, are, and always will be a mainstay for every team. It’s a fact of life in the NHL and one teams try to prepare for with depth. Some succeed while others fail.

The Jets are proof this season that the latter is attainable despite some significant knocks to key players.

Here is the lengthy list of other Jets who have gone down this season:

  • Mark Scheifele — injured after falling into the end boards following a hit from Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson in the second period on Dec. 27. Diagnosis: 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury
  • Adam Lowry — an upper-body injury likely sustained against the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 5. Has missed eight games (will return to the lineup on Tuesday).
  • Dmitry Kulikov — injured after getting drilled from behind by San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl on Jan. 23. He’s out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. (UPDATE: Kulikov could play Thursday, Jets coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday).
  • Brandon Tanev — missed seven games after picking up a lower-body injury on Dec. 29 against the New York Islanders.
  • Toby Enstrom — missed eight weeks and 23 games with a lower-body injury he sustained back in October.
  • Dustin Byfuglien —  sidelined for 10 games after a Dec. 9 tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Steve Mason —  missed seven games with a concussion in late November and early December and has now missed a further six with another concussion.

Every team deals with injuries. Not every team deals with injuries well. The Jets have dealt with the injury bug in impressive fashion.

Mark Scheifele’s injury could have been a season-altering blow. Losing your No.1 center isn’t a desirable thing to have happen, and Scheifele was having a career year and helping those around him do the same.

But in the 12 games he’s missed since getting injured, the Jets are 8-2-2.

“You look at what we’ve been able to do with (Scheifele) out of the lineup,” Lowry said on Monday in Winnipeg. “You lose your No.1 center, who was having an all-star campaign when he went down, and it seems like (Blake) Wheeler just slots into the middle and our team gets rolling.”

Wheeler’s move from right wing to center has been exceptional in Scheifele’s absence and has allowed for the boat to be a little less rocked down the middle for the Jets.

Trouba’s injury comes on the heels of the Jets losing Kulikov indefinitely.

“A key piece, right? It’s not just losing the player, he’s also playing right at his peak. His game in Anaheim was outstanding. He was really good,” Maurice said shortly after confirming reports of Trouba’s injury. “If we have an area of depth, and we do, it’s right defense. So that’s the one place if we have a guy go down, that we have players there who want the minutes, that can handle the minutes.”

The Jets will slot Tyler Myers up with Josh Morrissey in attempt to fill the minutes Trouba was commanding. Myers has shown he can handle the workload.

“Obviously (Trouba) is a big loss,” Myers said. “We’ve dealt with injuries the past month here. For us as a group, it’s just focusing on the same thing we have and that’s our game plan and executing.” 

Helping the Jets with Trouba out will be the defensive corps’ familiarity with one another. The Jets blue line was ravaged last year, including Myers, who was limited to just 11 games because of a groin injury.

“You can take it back to the last few years since I’ve been here. Everyone on the back end has played with a lot of different partners throughout my time here. We’re pretty used to switching things up. It’s just a matter of talking it out and getting used to each other quicker rather than later.” 

The Jets will have to be quick learners again.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Report: ‘Nothing more than preliminary discussions’ between Jets, Byfuglien

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Here’s the latest from the Free Press on talks between Winnipeg and d-man Dustin Byfuglien, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent next July:

Byfuglien, like [Andrew] Ladd, is also a pending UFA at the send of next season. According to the player’s agent, nothing more than preliminary discussions regarding the big defenseman have taken place.

Ladd is the No. 1 priority and must be the first domino to fall.

It’s expected that Ladd, the team’s captain, will likely get his desired extension (the Free Press figures it’ll be “north of $6 million” annually, and “in the range of $40 million” overall.) At 29 and coming off a career-high 62 points, he’s vitally important to the Jets and looks to be paid accordingly.

Which brings us to Byfuglien.

Though he’s coming off a stellar campaign of his own — 45 points in 69 games, an All-Star nod — Byfuglien plays on one of the NHL’s deepest bluelines. Tyler Myers (25 years old) and Jacob Trouba (21) represent the future, while Tobias Enstrom and Mark Stuart are locked in through 2018. All told, the Jets currently have 10 blueliners on NHL deals — Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba, Enstrom, Stuart, Grant Clitsome, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot — and a pair of bright young prospects in Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek on the horizon.

So it’s fair to suggest something has to give.

Byfuglien’s heading into the last of a five-year, $26 million deal that pays $5.2M annually. Though he’s now officially on the wrong side of 30 — he’ll be 31 next March — Byfuglien likely still has high value across the league, and scored a handful of Norris votes this season.

So, the big question: If the Jets can’t afford to pay Byfuglien, especially after the Ladd extension, can they afford to let him hit free agency and lose an asset for nothing? GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already did that this summer with Michael Frolik, who flew the coop to sign in Calgary.

Can’t imagine Chevy wants that to happen again.

Crowded blueline: Jets ink Postma to two-year, $1.775M deal

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Having already re-upped with Adam Pardy and Ben Chiarot this summer, the Jets retained another depth defenseman on Friday by giving Paul Postma a two-year, $1.775 million extension.

The deal, which carries an $887,500 cap hit, comes after Postma appeared in a career-high 42 games last year, averaging 14:08 TOI per night. The 26-year-old was a lineup regular for the first three months of the season, but phased out in the second half of the campaign due to healthy scratches and a lower-body injury.

This extension puts Postma firmly back in the mix, however, and it’s a crowded mix…

Right now, there are 10 blueliners in the fold: Pardy, Chiarot, Postma, Trouba, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Mark Stuart, Jay Harrison and Grant Clitsome, who is coming off back surgery. While it’s not surprising to see Winnipeg stockpile bodies — injuries ravaged the defense last year — it’ll be interesting to see if the Jets can carry this many contracts, or if a trade will eventually be orchestrated.

Worth mentioning the Jets also have touted prospect Josh Morrissey, the 13th overall pick in 2013, on the horizon.

Jets re-sign Pardy: one year, $1 million

The Jets have kept physical defenseman Adam Pardy in the fold with a one-year, $1 million deal, per TSN.

Pardy, 31, appeared in 55 games for the Jets last year, scoring nine points while racking up 40 PIM. He also appeared in two playoff games in the club’s opening-round loss to Anaheim, scoring one goal.

This new deal represents a nice raise for the former Flame, Star and Sabre — Pardy made $700,000 on his last contract, and likely earned this pay bump after performing well when Winnipeg’s blueline was decimated by injury.

At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Pardy is just one of several big bodies on the Jets’ defense, joining the likes of Dustin Byfuglien (6-5, 260), Tyler Myers (6-8, 219) and Ben Chiarot (6-3, 215).

Florida first: Ekblad takes home Calder Memorial Trophy

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Aaron Ekblad is the first defenseman since Tyler Myers (2009-10) to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

The blue liner becomes the first Panthers’ defenseman to take home the award.

“The competition is pretty unreal for this award and there are a couple of names who were left out who definitely could have made a case for it,” Ekblad told the Sun-Sentinel recently. “It’s pretty cool to see who wins it.

“I’ve been able to share this with my family and everything so whether I win or lose it’s been a great experience for sure.”

Ekblad led all NHL rookie defenders in goals (12), power play goals (six), power play points (13) and shots (170). The 19-year-old also finished second in assists, plus-minus (+12), hits (109) and blocked shots (80), all while averaging 21:48 of ice time per game.

He eclipsed Ed Jovanovski’s 19-year franchise record for goals and points by a rookie defenseman.

Ekblad beat out Ottawa Senators’ rookie Mark Stone and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

Here are the full voting results:

Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd)

1. Aaron Ekblad, FLA 1147 (71-39-24-12-8)
2. Mark Stone, OTT 1078 (47-49-46-11-2)
3. Johnny Gaudreau, CGY 1026 (33-57-48-19-0)
4. Filip Forsberg, NSH 594 (6-9-37-91-13)
5. John Klingberg, DAL 127 (0-2-1-15-63)
6. Mike Hoffman, OTT 57 (0-1-1-5-30)
7. Kevin Hayes, NYR 15 (0-0-0-1-12)
8. Michael Hutchinson, WPG 13 (0-0-0-1-10)
9. Anders Lee, NYI 12 (0-0-0-1-9)
10. Jake Allen, STL 10 (0-0-0-1-7)
11. Bo Horvat, VAN 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
12. Adam Lowry, WPG 1 (0-0-0-0-1)