The depletion of the Winnipeg Jets defense core over the last two years contributed to their winning just one playoff series since reaching the 2018 Western Conference final. Winnipeg Free Press columnist Mike McIntyre proposed using Kyle Connor as trade bait to acquire a big fish for the blueline.
McIntyre reported Connor came up in trade rumors before the 2020 NHL trade deadline. He indicated the Colorado Avalanche were interested, with a package involving defense prospect Bowen Byram said to be part of the deal. Nothing came of those discussions.
With promising young forwards such as Mason Appleton and Cole Perfetti in the Jets system, McIntyre suggested general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff would have the freedom to trade Connor for a blue-chip defenseman. He pointed out the 24-year-old left winger struggled without center Mark Scheifele when the latter was suspended during their second-round series loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Connor would draw considerable interest in this summer's trade market. He tallied a career-high 73 points in 71 games last season and netted 50 points in 56 contests this year.
Cap Friendly indicates Connor's annual average value is $7.14-million cap hit through 2025-26. His contract could be difficult to move under a flattened salary cap. However, a one-for-one swap is possible for a top-pairing defenseman carrying a similar cap hit.
The usually patient Cheveldayoff, however, could be reluctant to go that route given Connor's role on the Jets' top line. With $66.5 million invested in 20 players for 2021-22, he could consider cheaper options to address his defense issues. Those could include promoting young blueliners Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola into bigger roles next season.