The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Matthieu Perreault on waivers Monday. It was the right move given their current circumstances.
Perreault Has Struggled in Recent Seasons
A veteran of 627 games and 11 NHL seasons, Perreault has struggled in recent seasons and seen his role with the Jets wane.
Last season, the 32-year-old recorded only 15 points, his lowest total since his 2010-11 sophomore season with the Washington Capitals. His ice-time of 13:04 was well below the 16-plus minutes he logged in his first three seasons with the Jets between 2014 and 2017.
Perreault, while a versatile bottom-six player who works hard and can used to plug holes all throughout the lineup, is unreliable. He was limited to 49 games last season due to a couple of injuries and has played 70-plus games in a season just thrice in his career.
Perreault is also notoriously streaky, a player who oscillates between being on tears and being in terrible slumps.
Perreault signed a four-year contract with an $4.125 million AAV after his three-year contract with a $3 million AAV expired after the 2016-17 season. He got a pay bump mainly because he produced 40-plus points each season, including a career-high 45 in his contract year.
The four-year deal seemed decent — if not a bit of an overpayment — at the time, but it’s now seen as the Jets’ absolute worst and was one of the reasons they couldn’t sign more players this offseason. A bottom-six player should not be earning what he does.
Youth Movement Wins Out, No Veteran Bias Here
Jets’ fans often accuse head coach Paul Maurice and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff of having a shared veteran bias. These fans point to over-the-hill, “good-in-the-room” players such as Shawn Matthias, Matt Hendricks, Mark Letestu, and Luca Sbisa getting playing time instead prospects in years past.
No one can accuse the coach and GM of having any such bias this time. Perreault is one of the longest-standing Jets, but the move yesterday communicated that the team is committed to getting their young up-and-comers into the lineup.
Perreault on waivers means another spot for players such as Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, and Kristian Vesalainen to battle for.
It also means Trevor Lewis, who skated on a line with Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp at Monday’s scrimmage at Bell MTS Place and is in camp on a professional tryout, has likely defied the odds and will be signed to a contact.
It also potentially clears a spot for Jack Roslovic, if the RFA holdout — currently at home in Columbus sans a contract — decides to re-sign.
Harkins seems a prime candidate for a roster spot given his strong showing in the back half of last season, playing with some combination of Appleton, Nate Thompson, and David Gustafsson.
Given the Jets have Blake Wheeler as captain, Paul Stastny back as second-line centre, and Bryan Little as a de-facto coach who can no longer play but will still be around to provide mentorship, they don’t need another veteran player who provides “leadership” but doesn’t produce.
Perreault Destined For Taxi Squad; Still Likely to Suit Up This Season
Despite being waived, don’t expect to see Perreault with the Manitoba Moose when the AHL season starts in February. If he clears by late-morning Tuesday — which is likely as not many teams want to pick up a player with such a big contract and injury problems — he’ll certainly be on the taxi squad.
Maurice said Monday afternoon that waiving Perreault “is wholly and completely a cap compliance issue,” and if Perreault isn’t claimed there’s nothing that precludes him from being on the opening night roster.
The Jets — who will also realize savings when Little’s contract is transferred to the long-term injured reserve — will see more than $1 million in cap savings by waiving Perreault.
Given what we’ve discussed above, though, it’s unlikely “Frenchy,” as his teammates call him, will be in the opening-night line-up.
However, when injuries (and most likely COVID cases) arise throughout the 56-game season as the seven teams in the all-Canadian North Division beat the poutine of each other, Perreault will be one of the first to be called upon. We haven’t seen the last of him in a Jets’ jersey.
Perreault is a high-quality individual who gives his all and never complains about an assignment. His character has never been an issue. It’ll be good for the Jets to know they have a “Swiss Army knife” at their disposal.
But it’s also good for the Jets that they made this move to clear a spot for a youngster who may flourish with more minutes.