Copp heads to Rangers as Jets buy, sell at Trade Deadline swap meet

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The Winnipeg Jets traded veteran forward Andrew Copp to the New York Rangers, completing the deal minutes before the NHL trade deadline on Monday.

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The deal included a sixth-round draft pick going to the Rangers. Coming to Winnipeg are three draft picks and a prospect: 23-year-old Morgan Barron, a 6-foot-4 center who’s played 18 NHL games.

A sixth-round pick, Barron has 19 goals in 46 American Hockey League games.

“I certainly want to thank Andrew Copp for his many years of service here,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “When I talked to him, I can still remember going to watch him playing college and the relationships that we’ve built. The guy that you draft and develop and has come through your organization, there’s always a little bit of a different feeling in making a trade like that.

The draft picks acquired by the Jets: a second-rounder this year that could become a first-rounder if the Rangers win two playoff series and Copp plays at least half the games, another second-rounder that the Jets could bump back to next year and a fifth-rounder next year.

“It gives us, (from) an organizational standpoint, lots of different options,” Cheveldayoff said. “We’ve got picks as you saw last summer – we trade second-round picks for players, we traded third-line picks for players — (so) it gives us just so many more options both now and in the future.”

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Copp was in his seventh NHL season, all with Winnipeg. While he’s a pending unrestricted free agent, it’s not the end he’d envisioned when the season began.

“It’ll be a shame to say bye to a lot of these guys in the next couple of days, but I’m looking forward to a great opportunity in New York,” Copp told Sportsnet, adding the Jets just didn’t handle the adversity of the season very well. “Every team goes through adversity throughout the course of the year. We went through our fair share. Maybe we didn’t come out as clean as we would have hoped. Between the COVID, the coaching changes, no fans in the building for a few games — there was just a lot of things that went wrong.

“And obviously every team has been dealing with it, so it’s no excuse. But just didn’t seem like we were able to overcome that adversity the way others have, so far. When I signed here last year, I was really anticipating one more deep run in the playoffs. But plans always change.”

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Copp has 13 goals, 22 assists, in 56 games this season.

He joins former Jets teammate Jacob Trouba in New York.

To backfill Copp’s departure, Cheveldayoff added two to his middle-six contingent, re-acquiring right-winger Mason Appleton late Sunday night for a 2023 fourth-round pick and 2019 Stanley Cup champion Zach Sanford on Monday for a 2022 fifth-rounder.

“We added two penalty killers into the lineup and obviously added a lot of size into the lineup in Sanford and Appleton,” Cheveldayoff said. “I think it gives (the third) line purpose. I think it gives that line identity. And I think having the penalty-killing aspect was important to us.”

Appleton, drafted by Winnipeg in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was lost to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft last summer. Prior to the Kraken taking him, Appleton was coming off a career year, scoring 12 goals and adding 13 helpers in the truncated 2020-21 season.

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“Yesterday when I was able to talk to (Appleton), I told him, ‘I finally got you back’ because we tried several times throughout the course of the year to acquire Mason,” Cheveldayoff said.

The 26-year-old had six goals and 17 points in 49 games this season prior to his re-acquiring.

Sanford, meanwhile, is a well-known commodity to the Jets after he spent parts of four years with the St. Louis Blues, including their championship run that claimed Winnipeg’s season in 2018-19.

“I think it’s more balanced,” Cheveldayoff said of his roster. “Copp’s versatility is certainly something we saw (on Sunday at Chicago) when he slid to center 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.”

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Sanford, a left-shot winger, brings size to Winnipeg’s roster at 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, was had for a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.

The 27-year-old, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, has nine goals and 17 points in 62 games this season for Ottawa.

Drafted in the second round in 2013 by the Washington Capitals, Sanford has played 271 NHL games, scoring 47 goals and 91 points.

Appleton, 26, does a lot of the things the Jets have missed this season on offense, including being tenacious on the forecheck and fearless when dropping the shoulder on the way to the net.

He is the final year of a two-year, $1.8-million contract signed in October 2020. He will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

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Monday’s Trade Deadline began bright and early as Nathan Beaulieu was shipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional seventh-round pick.

For Winnipeg to collect on the deal, they’ll need Pittsburgh to make it to the Stanley Cup Final and to have Beaulieu play in at least 50% of those games.

The 29-year-old was first acquired by the Jets from the Buffalo Sabers in 2019.

He played in 105 games for the Jets, scoring a goal and adding 17 helpers with 81 penalty minutes. He had one assist in four playoff games.

End of an era

Bryan Little is no longer a member of the Jets, after the remaining two years of his contract were traded along with 23-year-old prospect Nathan Smith to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.

The Jets received a fourth-round pick in 2022 in return.

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Little has two years left on a six-year deal with an average annual value of $5.291 million he signed in September 2017. He is owed $8.75M in salary over those remaining years.

The 34-year-old hasn’t played since being injured during a game in November 2019 after taking an errant shot to the head. He is not expected to play again.

“I had a conversation with Bryan Little today and thanked him very much for the help that he provided this organization,” Cheveldayoff said. “He had a (modified no-trade clause) and Arizona was on it, so we had to have him agree to waive it so that the contract could be traded there.

The trade meant the Jets won’t have to live in an LTI world next season, allowing them to increased cap space throughout the year, among other benefits.

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Smith, a top-ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, handed to college hockey’s best player, told the club he wouldn’t be signing in Winnipeg on Saturday.

“We had a conversation with his representative, he just felt that the opportunity down the middle with our group, with (Mark) Scheifele, with (Pierre-Luc) Dubois, with (Adam) Lowry, with (Cole) Perfetti, he just felt that there were going to be better opportunities in other places.

Smith was drafted in the third round, 91st overall, during the 2018 NHL Draft.

Monday’s Trade Deadline recap:

IN:

–Mason Appleton
–Zach Sanford
–Morgan Barron
– Markus Phillips
– Conditional 2nd in 2022
– Second-round pick in 2022 or 2023 (Winnipeg’s option)
– Fourth-rounder in 2022
– Conditional seventh-round pick in 2022
– Fifth-round pick in 2023

OUT:

–Andrew Copp
–Bryan Little
–Nathan Beaulieu
–Nathan Smith
–Nelson Nogier
– Fifth-round pick in 2022
– Fourth-round pick in 2023
– Sixth-round pick in 2023

sbilleck@postmedia.com

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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