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May 26, 2024

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CATCHING UP ON THE NHL’S BIGGEST 2023 OFF-SEASON FORWARD CHANGES

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Today, the focus in the NHL is on the forwards, and while there haven’t been any extravagant unrestricted free agent signings like John Tavares’s deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018, there have been significant trades and signings impacting teams’ rosters.

Starting in Winnipeg, the Jets made some major adjustments up front. They bought out Blake Wheeler, who had been the last remaining member of the Atlanta Thrashers on their roster. Despite Wheeler’s continued productivity with 55 points in 72 games, the inevitable decision to buy him out was made due to the final year of his contract carrying an $8.25 million cap hit. Wheeler then signed a bargain deal with the New York Rangers, joining a veteran team under new coach Peter Laviolette.

Following the buyout, the Jets gained an additional $5.5 million in cap space, which came in handy for signing new players. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff traded center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings, but not before securing an eight-year extension with a $8.5 million cap hit for Dubois, a significant raise from his previous one-year qualifying offer of $6 million. Dubois, a talented forward, had made it clear he didn’t intend to re-sign in Winnipeg, prompting the trade.

CATCHING UP ON THE NHL’S BIGGEST 2023 OFF-SEASON FORWARD CHANGES

In return for Dubois, the Jets received Rasmus Kupari, a promising 23-year-old center, drafted 20th overall in 2018. Kupari has shown potential and will likely be part of Winnipeg’s second line. Gabe Vilardi, another center, and right winger with great potential, was also part of the deal. After a breakout season with the Kings, Vilardi agreed to a two-year deal with Winnipeg.

The third addition to the Jets is Alex Iafallo, a reliable 29-year-old left winger with a contract signed for two more seasons at a cap hit of $4 million. Finally, versatile utility forward Vladislav Namestnikov, acquired at the 2023 trade deadline, was re-signed for two more seasons at a cap hit of $2 million.

The trade significantly strengthens the Kings’ center depth, with Dubois joining Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault. Overall, these moves signal the Jets’ determination to bolster their forward lines and contend in the upcoming season, while the Kings hope their acquisitions will contribute to a strong playoff performance in the near future.

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