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Jets Trade Forward Copp, Defenceman Beaulieu, and Bryan Little’s Contract

March 21, 2022 4:15 PM | The Canadian Press

By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets may have been sellers at the NHL trade deadline, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t see any holes in his roster after a busy day.

Winnipeg swung five deals on Monday and one late Sunday, moving five players and receiving four. They also added and subtracted a number of draft picks.

Veteran forward Andrew Copp was the biggest deletion when he was traded to the New York Rangers before Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

The Jets also bid farewell to defencemen Nathan Beaulieu (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Nelson Nogier (Los Angeles Kings). The rights to unsigned prospect Nathan Smith and the contract of injured centre Bryan Little both went to the Arizona Coyotes.

Winnipeg added forwards Morgan Barron from the Rangers and Zach Sanford from the Ottawa Senators. Defenceman Markus Phillips was part of the Kings’ deal and forward Mason Appleton was re-acquired from the Seattle Kraken in a late Sunday trade.

“It was important for us to, again, not have to have holes in our lineup when we came out of the deadline day here,” Cheveldayoff told media after the deadline. “It was something that, given the balance of the salary cap and the potential of what we were going to do, I wanted to make sure we weren’t in a situation where we didn’t have the holes filled.

“It was important for me to get Mason, it was important for me to get Zach, and it was important that we helped this organization become deeper from an asset standpoint.”

He was asked if the roster was now better than the one that beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 on Sunday. Copp picked up three assists in the game.

“Well, I think it’s more balanced,” Cheveldayoff replied. “Again, Copp’s versatility is certainly something we saw yesterday when he slid to centre and those are the things that made him a very useful player for us.

“From that aspect of things, you lose a little, but I think from a size perspective and a harder-to-play-against perspective, with Sanford’s size, it gives us a little different element than we had before.”

The 27-year-old Copp has 13 goals and 22 assists this season, on pace for a career-best campaign. He has 74 goals and 110 assists over eight seasons, all in Winnipeg.

The deal with New York also had the Jets sending a sixth-round selection in the 2023 NHL draft to the Rangers, who gave up Barron, two conditional second-round picks and a fifth-round pick in 2023 in return.

Barron has split the season between the Rangers and their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, and he has one assist in 13 NHL games.

The Jets’ two conditional second-round picks from New York include the Rangers’ own second-round pick in 2022 but it will become a first-round pick in 2022 if New York advances to the Eastern Conference final and Copp plays in at least 50 per cent of the Rangers’ playoff games.

Winnipeg also got the St. Louis Blues’ second-round pick in 2022 or New York’s second-round selection in 2023.

Copp’s name had been swirling in trade rumours for a while, along with unrestricted pending free agent forward Paul Stastny.

“Paul Stastny, for us, is a key piece from this organization’s standpoint that he can do so many things,” Cheveldayoff said. “You talk about the flexibility of playing the wing and playing centre, and just the leadership and the experience in the room.

“I can tell you, I never had any conversations about moving Stas because he’s that important for us. If we want a shot to make it into the playoffs here, we need him.”

The package of Little and Smith were moved to the Coyotes for a 2022 fourth-round draft pick.

Little, who hasn’t played since November 2019 after being hit in the head with a puck that left him with a perforated eardrum and dealing with vertigo, has two years left on a contract that carries an annual average value of just over US$5.29 million.

With Little’s departure, captain Blake Wheeler is now the only player left from the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise that was sold and relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 and became the Jets.

Cheveldayoff said he thanked Little for waiving his modified no-movement contract that included the Coyotes.

“It gives us the flexibility, if you want to call it, in the salary cap world where we don’t have to plan to be an LTI (long-term injured reserve) team to that extent,” he said.

Beaulieu was traded to Pittsburgh for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft. Currently on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury, the 29-year-old had four assists in 24 games with the Jets in 2021-22. He’s in the final season of a two-year contract with an AAV of US$1.25 million.

Winnipeg swapped Nogier for Phillips, who was then sent to Winnipeg’s AHL club, the Manitoba Moose. Phillips, 23, has played 38 games for the AHL’s Ontario Reign this season and has one goal and four assists. The Markham, Ont., native is in his third professional season.

Sandford is a pending unrestricted free agent on a one-year, US$2-million contract. He has nine goals and eight assists in 62 games this season.

Cheveldayoff was happy to welcome back Appleton for a fourth-round pick in 2023. Winnipeg drafted the centre in the seventh round back in 2015, but lost him to Seattle in last summer’s expansion draft.

Appleton has six goals and 17 points in 49 games this season.

Heading into Monday’s NHL action, the Jets are four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final wild-card spot. Vegas plays in Minnesota Monday night and then travels to Winnipeg for a Tuesday tilt.

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