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Will Winnipeg be the destination for sitting winger Sean Bergenheim?

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With reports that the Panthers may move Sean Bergenheim by Monday, we look at the Jets as a possible trading partner.

The Jets have a deep prospect pool at goalie
The Jets have a deep prospect pool at goalie
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The spiraling saga of Sean Bergenheim's time with the Florida Panthers appears to be nearing an end, with reports that the Cats may move the Finnish wing by February 23rd. For those interested, here is a link to the insider article discussing this rumor:

http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2015/02/20/report-panthers-close-in-on-bergenheim-trade/

One of the team's whose name continues to be mentioned as being in the chase for Bergenheim is the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets look to be a Western Conference playoff team, although that line of playoff vs. non-playoff is a fine one for non-division winners in the mighty west. Nonetheless, the Jets seem to have an interest in the unhappy Finn, and for good reason: as the NBC Sports article points out, Bergy's possession numbers are solid, his secondary goal scoring equally so, and we Panther fans know that he is a fantastic forechecker. He is also a proven playoff performer, with 17 points (12 goals) in 23 career playoff games. There is no doubt that of the Panthers' four pending unrestricted free agents, Bergy is the most valuable, and would likely garner the best return.

Having said that, the NBC Sports article indicates that the cost for Bergenheim may be a 3rd round draft pick in 2015. The Panthers gave up their 3rd round pick in the upcoming draft to the New York Islanders, for the Isles 3rd round pick in 2014, but gained the Pittsburgh Penguins 3rd round pick for this year via the Marcel Goc trade. The Panthers also have an extra pick in the 5th round from Montreal that came from the Mike Weaver trade. Winnipeg can afford to give up a pick, as they received one of Buffalo's two extra first round picks (the later of the two) in the Tyler Myers/Evander Kane trade. With Winnipeg presently looking like a playoff team, their draft position has yet to be firmly established (no tank in the 'Peg's future) but will likely be later in the 3rd round. A 3rd round pick is nothing to sneeze at, remember that Vincent Trochcek was a 3rd rounder.

There have been other rumors that the Jets may send depth defensemen back in return for Bergy. This seems at first and second (and repeated other) glance to be unlikely. Dale Tallon recently admitted that the team is well set at center and defense and that they are looking to build the wings now. We can see this firsthand as three AHL call-ups at defense are playing good hockey for the Cats, and the organization is loaded with NCAA level standouts at that position as well. Because of this fact, it seems strange to believe that the team would move their top valued UFA for underwhelming defensemen from Winnipeg.

The Jets are a young, big team, not unlike the Panthers, but perhaps a year or two ahead of the Cats in their development. Their AHL level farm team, in St. Johns, is being carried by goaltending, and it is at goalie that the Jets may be deepest. Ondrej Pavelec is a former second-round draft pick who the Jets believe strongly in. Outside of Winnipeg, there is less belief in the 27-year-old Czech, but the Jets maintain that Pav is their guy. Their jam of goaltending talent starts there. Behind Pavelec is 24-year-old Michael Hutchinson, who has put up good numbers in 28 games for the Jets this season. Hutchinson is young and big (6'3") and could turn out to be the team's next starter. On January 20, 2015, www.hockeysfuture.com had this to say about Hutchinson:

Hutchinson has now appeared in 20 NHL games and posted an impressive 13-4-2 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. His play is widely considered to be a major reason that the Jets remain in good position in the competitive Western Conference playoff picture. Some have even gone as far as to say that he should be included in the conversation for the Calder Trophy – awarded each year to the NHL’s top rookie. Whether or not Hutchinson will be able to maintain and build on his hot start, only time will tell. But if he can keep up his solid play, an area that has been a question mark for the organization may finally be a position of strength.

the Jets also have three prospect goalies behind Hutchinson, all of whom may be solid NHL prospects.

Connor Hellebuyck left UMass-Lowell and a stellar NCAA career after his sophomore season and has been carrying the St. John's Ice Caps on his 6'4" shoulders this season. Hellebuyck looks like a future NHL starter and is only 22-years-old. Hellebuyck is competing with Eric Comrie to be the Jets goalie of the future. Comrie is a 6'1" 19-year-old playing in the Western Hockey League who backed up Zach Fucale on Team Canada's World Junior Team this winter. Any of the Jets three young goalies would be an upgrade for the Panthers prospect pool at the position, and all three are farther along in their development than much of the Cats thin pool at the position. But the Jets also have another intriguing prospect that they have been able to find little space for, in the form of 24-year-old Finn, Juho Olkinuora, who has also been a very solid prospect.

Winnipeg does not have a great deal of standout prospects at the wing position. Joel Armia and Nikolaj Ehlers both project to be NHL impact players, but the Jets would not move either one in return for Bergenheim. The Jets did obtain Brendan Lemieux in the deal for Evander Kane from Buffalo, and Lemieux is a noted prospect who is also good friends with his former Barrie Colts teammate Aaron Ekblad. Rumor has it that Lemieux would not sign with the Sabres, and that could be an issue in Florida. Nonetheless, he is one of the few prospects the Jets have at wing who they may part with. 6'4" Adam Lowry has played 4th line minutes with the Jets this season, but projects as more of an energy line player, something the Panthers are full of, even at the wing. Scott Kosmachuk is a smaller wing who projects as, at best, an energy line player. One intriguing player on the Jets depth chart is Axel Blomqvist, a 6'6" 215lb wing from Sweden, presently playing in Moose Jaw (WHL). Blomqvist is still quite the question mark, but has been producing at close to a point-per-game in the WHL for Victoria and Moose Jaw.

Winnipeg's wish to obtain Bergenheim suggests that there are no options at wing on the NHL roster that they would likely move back in return that the Panthers would be interested in. The Cats may be thin at wing, but that weakness is in top-6 wings. Florida is well-stocked at bottom-6 wing for the foreseeable future. It appears that the Jets are also quite thin at prospects who can play the wing. Thus, if there is a deal to be made with Winnipeg, it appears draft picks or a goaltender would be the best we could hope for in return.