Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Swapping Spare Parts

I'm almost certain that the chronological events of the trades that happened today involving the Winnipeg Jets didn't happen as they went down. With the New Jersey Devils announcing that winger Dainius Zubrus would be out for four-to-eight weeks with wrist surgery, they needed a winger who could eat up Zubrus' minutes and score a few goals. Head coach Peter DeBoer was a big fan of Alexei Ponikarovsky last season in New Jersey, so I'm sure that phone calls were made within minutes after hearing about Zubrus' extended break from hockey. With the Jets being thin in terms of depth in their forwards, a Devils phone call may have set the events in motion that brought winger Eric Tangradi in from Pittsburgh.

Essentially, the Jets end up with a younger player who has yet to even be in the same ballpark as his potential and they give up a player who was a solid veteran, but only logging twelve minutes of ice-time per night. Ponikarovsky certainly has to be more than a twelve-minute player, but he was never going to be a top-six forward in Winnipeg. Tangradi is a cheaper solution who will fit the third-line, twelve-minute role quite nicely.

There's no doubt that Eric Tangradi's time in Pittsburgh was up after he, amongst a number of wingers, failed to record a point alongside the Malkin-Neal tandem. Tangradi has been given a number of chances to swim by GM Ray Shero, yet he continued to flounder at the NHL level. While I'm sure that Pittsburgh wanted to see him become a solid power forward, you can't keep throwing him out against NHL-level talent and watching him do very little alongside the talent of the Penguins. A change of scenery might be what Tangradi needs, so he's off to Winnipeg in exchange for Winnipeg's seventh-round pick.

Alexei Ponikarovsky appeared to be a very serviceable forward in the Winnipeg lineup, but everyone around the Jets knew he was a stop-gap until some of the younger talent in St. John's and in the CHL begin to make progress. Ponikarovsky provided a veteran presence that head coach Claude Noel could roll out on the penalty kill when necessary, and his work on the third line with Kyle Wellwood appeared to be meshing nicely. However, because he was a temporary fill for a team looking to build through use, his long-term value to the Jets was low, thus making him expendable for the right price. New Jersey's seventh-round pick in 2013 and a fourth-round pick in 2014 was the right price, and Ponikarovsky will now don Devils red-and-black for the foreseeable future.

Will this these moves make any of the teams better? For New Jersey, they certainly get a player that Peter DeBoer has confidence in and can fill Zubrus' minutes. For Pittsburgh, they open a roster spot and free up nearly a million dollars in cap space that may be used when the trade deadline rolls around. For Winnipeg, they get a young player who hasn't found his niche in the NHL yet, but is a cheaper investment than Ponikarovsky was for the minutes he will fill. All in all, it seems everyone is a winner in this trade at this point.

In terms of the Jets, I see Tangradi's career thus far following a similar path as Blake Wheeler's career once did. The Bruins and Coyotes had high hopes for Wheeler, but he just couldn't find his role early on in his career. A few years later, and he is the leading scorer on the Jets. Perhaps Tangradi needs that same time to grow and develop into a solid power forward? If so, it appears the Jets will give him the opportunity to log some solid minutes rather than sitting in Pittsburgh's press box.

While the teams look like they just swapped spare parts, there may be a bigger payoff down the road for the three teams and two players involved.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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