Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff had himself a busy night on Monday. Opting to start free agency week with a bang rather than wait things out, Chevy went about his business quietly throughout the majority of the day on Monday, before announcing a major trade and key signing.
First, news broke that veteran forward Paul Stastny would be sticking around in Winnipeg for another season. Re-signing on a discounted $3.75 million for the 2021-22 season, the now 35-year-old will be looked upon to continue with his help as a second-line contributor, who can play the key ‘setup man’ role on either of the team’s power play units.
Stastny, who originally came to Winnipeg back in spring of 2018 in advance of the Jets’ lengthy postseason run, opted to sign a three-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights that offseason, despite Chevy moving Joel Armia and Steve Mason to Montreal in order to make room for the gifted centreman.
He played two seasons with the Golden Knights before the Jets came calling. In attempting to satisfy the desires of former star winger Patrik Laine, Cheveldayoff brought Stastny – to whom Laine had found much success alongside – back into the fold for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Laine ended up only skating in one game with the Jets this past season before suffering an injury and ultimately being traded to Columbus. Stastny, who was brought in to help the youngster rediscover his game, ended up fitting in well with a variety of the Jets’ offensive stars. Finishing the year with a modest 13 goals and 29 points in 56 games, the Quebec City product will continue to be a force both on the ice, while helping the team with his experience and leadership in the dressing room.
Then just minutes after the Stastny signing became official, the Jets and Washington Capitals announced a one-player, three-piece trade that saw Winnipeg pick up defenceman Brenden Dillon in exchange for second-round draft picks in both the 2022 and 2023 NHL Entry Drafts.
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Viewed as a ‘cap space saver’ by Washington, the deal sees Dillon, 30, sent to the Jets alongside his remaining three years of a four-year, $15.6 million contract signed in October of 2020. He carries a $3.9 cap hit for each of the next three seasons – something that Winnipeg is certainly willing to take on in exchange for the services of the big and tough defender.
Known for his physicality, Dillon is a menace at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He plays a solid two-way game, while never backing down from tossing a sizeable check open-ice or against the boards. His net-front presence will certainly be welcomed by the Jets, while his heavy shot and offensive instincts will be an added touch.
Having put up two goals, 19 points and 49 penalty minutes in just 56 games of the shortened 2020-21 season with the Capitals, Dillon showed that he can still tee it up from the point, while making a solid first pass on zone exits with a speedy Washington team. Topping out at 22 points in back-to-back seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Dillon put up a career-high five goals in 2017-18 and followed that up with a career-high 22 assists in 2018-19.
His 75 games of postseason experience will also serve the Jets’ room as quite an added bonus, as only Paul Stastny (103 games) has more Stanley Cup Playoff games under his belt.