Monday, 6 October 2014

Fresh Start In The AHL

I'm not sure if Peter Budaj saw this coming after tweeting about how he was excited for a fresh start in Winnipeg, but the Jets waived the veteran netminder with the intention of sending him to the AHL's St. John's IceCaps today. Honestly, I don't think a lot of people can explain this move outside of the Jets' front office considering that Budaj had better numbers than Ondrej Pavelec last season and he has more NHL experience than Michael Hutchinson. Instead, Budaj will ply his trade on Canada's easternmost point after the Jets made yet another inexplicable trade.

The picture above is from Budaj's days in Hershey with the Bears when he still played for the Colorado Avalanche. It's been a while since he played in the AHL, and he'll certainly give the IceCaps a major boost in being paired with Connor Hellebuyck. But the question remains: why did the Jets make a deal for Budaj if they had no intention of letting him compete for a job in Winnipeg?

There's no upside to this deal unless Patrick Holland was the player the Jets were after. After all, Eric Tangradi wasn't happy about being sent to the AHL, but he's been quite useless as an NHL player throughout his career thus far. Budaj, though, has been a capable backup goalie, and his contract is worth more than what the Jets were paying Tangradi.

This isn't a condemnation of what Hutchinson can do as the Jets' backup netminder either. I'm quite happy with Hutchinson as the second man, and would even be alright if he was the starter. I'd feel a lot better if Budaj and Hutchinson were a tandem as Ondrej Pavelec has failed the "what have you done for me lately" test far too often. I understand why the Jets aren't going to bury Pavelec in the minors, but burying Budaj one day after acquiring him seems quite disrespectful to the netminder.

I still can't see a reason to make this trade unless Patrick Holland was the key. I know that Montreal was trying to move Budaj in order to give Tokarski a shot, but why would the Jets agree to take Budaj off Montreal's hands if they had no intention of even letting him compete for a job? And why would the Jets take on more salary to try to accommodate a player like Tangradi who literally did nothing while wearing a Jets uniform?

This trade makes no sense. It's a trade, literally, for trade's sake. The Jets sent a player destined for the AHL for a player already in the AHL and a goaltender who was written off long before he arrived in the Manitoba capital. Some will say that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff finally acquired an NHL player for an NHL player, but that's entirely false since neither Tangradi nor Budaj will suit up for the Jets this season unless circumstances change dramatically.

Peter Budaj could be a good asset down the road for a team that needs a goaltender, and the Jets have one ready. The issue that may scare off teams is that Budaj would have to clear re-entry waivers in order to join an NHL team if he were traded again. In other words, the Jets may have a hard time moving Budaj if they were adding assets for a potential trade down the road.

The only teams that benefit are the Canadiens as they get some cap relief, the Hamilton Bulldogs as they get Eric Tangradi, and the St. John's IceCaps as they get Peter Budaj and Patrick Holland. The Jets have a larger cap hit, no players to show for their efforts, and probably won't be able to move the players they acquired if they so desired.

So why did they make this deal? Welcome to the Cheveldayoff Paradox.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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