Jets should hold onto Ron Hainsey

By: Adam Wazny | Friday, March 29

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey could be traded before the NHL trade deadline. (File/Getty Images)

Ultimately, the value of Ron Hainsey will be determined by what another club is willing to part with in a trade. The value of Ron Hainsey for the Winnipeg Jets, however, appears much more than that.

Hainsey is the only piece on the Jets roster attractive to other NHL clubs as the trade deadline fast approaches (April 3). 

We'll get to his play on the ice in a moment, but the 32-year-old defenceman is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and because of this expiring contract situation, he's the perfect player for a contender wanting to improve its chances in the post season.

He's a rental property, a beach house. No major investment or commitment is needed. If it works out, great, and there could be interest to buy long term. If it doesn't, no worries, just shake hands and move on. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Jets 4-0 Thursday night, recently acquired Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks for a pair of second round picks. When the Jets moved Johnny Oduya at the deadline last year, they picked up a second and third round pick from Chicago. 

Those are the deals most fans will look at in setting a market for Hainsey, but they don't matter: different times, different situations.

Teams looking to bolster their defence see the left-shooting Hainsey as an insurance policy. He'll serve a depth command on a contender, a guy who can limit the damage in the lineup should injury occur. 

The versatile Hainsey is Blue Cross, and the premiums are relatively low.

Hainsey's worth in Winnipeg is a little more tangible: He's played 34 games (he missed one with a hand injury), averaging 23:09 minutes per contest -- the highest average of his 10-year career. He leads the club in blocked shots (87) by a huge margin. He's a regular on the penalty kill. 

The advanced statistics say otherwise, but on a nightly basis Hainsey is a Top 4 pillar, slotted alongside Zach Bogosian on Winnipeg's top shutdown pair.

Do the Jets have someone who can replace Hainsey the rest of the season if they decide to flip him for a draft pick? Doesn't appear so. Grant Clitsome is the likeliest candidate, but asking him to play an additional five minutes a night could be hazardous. Mistakes often happen when players are over-exposed.

Consider this: Winnipeg (18-15-2) leads the Southeast division by six points over Carolina. 

Barring a monumental collapse, the Jets are on the cusp of a playoff spot and a first-round series with home ice advantage. A little too soon for the rebuilding blueprint, yes, but it could be a big moment for the franchise. 

Not only do they stand to make a few extra dollars at the gate, they can also give some core players on the roster -- Bogosian, Ondrej Pavelec, Evander Kane, Toby Enstrom -- their first drink of NHL playoff experience.

Winnipeg is not long for Southeast mediocrity, though; a little taste of post seasoning now could go a long way in the years to come, when the path to the playoffs may not be so easy.

Don't discount the playoff importance when considering the long-term development of a young club. It's a maturity lesson for the Jets. On top of that, it's hard to imagine the players getting behind a scenario where management subtracts a key cog during a playoff run for a future promise that may or may not pan out.

Not a great message to send to the current roster or the coaching staff.

So what if the Jets miss out on a second round or third rounder, and so what if they risk Hainsey walking away for nothing when July rolls around? Big deal. They have 10 picks this year; they can afford to burn an extra one.

Bottom line: Hainsey's value is not as an asset at the trade deadline. It's in Winnipeg, where the playoffs are a distinct possibility and where he plays an important role on the blue-line. And it's probably worth more than a second-round pick.

Opinion

Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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