2. Do the Jets have the defense to get the job done?
Since reaching the Western Conference Finals four years ago, the following defensemen have left the team: Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Chiarot, Toby Enstrom, Dmitry Kulikov, Tyler Myers, and Jacob Trouba. That is one outstanding defense. Three of those left Winnipeg as Free Agents and one was traded away before he hit the open market.
Whether those defensemen wanted to stay put or not does not matter because the vast majority of the team’s cap space is tied up in paying for a ton of offense. The issue is the rate that all of these positions have needed to be replaced.
The Jets’ top defenseman is Josh Morrissey who is signed long term and has twice tallied over 30 points on the season. The biggest question surrounding him is whether or not he is a true top pairing guy or a perfectly capable top-four blueliner. The only other current long-term commitment on defense belongs to Dylan DeMelo. DeMelo was acquired last season in a trade with the Ottawa Senators and proved dependable enough to garner a four-year extension.
When trading away Jacob Trouba the Jets very specifically wanted to fill his shoes. In the Trouba deal, the Jets acquired both Neal Pionk and a 2019 First-Round Draft pick. Pionk was sensational last season, scoring 45 total points in his first year in Winnipeg, a number that nearly doubled his previous career-high.
The 2019 Draft pick ended up being the 20th overall draft choice and with it, the Jets selected Finnish Defensemen Ville Heinola. If you paid attention to the World Junior Championships, Heinola was a very good puck-moving defenseman for team Finland. Heinola is also one of only five players drafted in 2019 to have already made his NHL debut. I think that Heinola is capable of making a dark horse Calder Memorial Trophy run like Adam Fox did last year for the New York Rangers.
The Jets have the offense and the goaltending. If these four young defensemen can take strides forward it will be hard to imagine the Winnipeg Jets not competing for the top spot in the North Division.