WINNIPEG, MB -- Ever since the Jets closed up shop for the season (insert joke as you wish), the talk had been fairly quiet in Winnipeg hockey media -- without any major unrestricted free agents this summer thanks to the signing of Dustin Byfuglien and trading of Andrew Ladd -- save for the official signing of Kyle Connor.
Sure, speculation about whether Jets GM Kevin Chevaldayoff would make any trades at the draft table and the possibility of picking up some free agents had started, but Winnipeg was overall quiet for hockey; that is, until Saturday when the Jets made a huge leap in the NHL Draft Lottery and now own the No.2 pick.
That pick is expected to be Patrick Laine, and barring a selection out of left field, it seems that Laine will indeed suit up for Winnipeg. Depending on whom you speak to, that arrival could come as early as October.
It's hard not to be excited about Laine, who has even been ranked ahead of Auston Matthews, the newly anointed prodigal son of the Maple Leafs, on some draft sheets. Some have gone so far as to anoint him "Finnish Flash 2.0", following in the skate hashes of Teemu Selanne. It's all well and good to have such high hopes, but let's not forget that the NHL Draft's prospects are never sure-fire studs.
For every Sidney Crosby, there are five Alexandre Daigles (an important lesson for Toronto to heed). Laine may be a great one, but he may also flame out as he attempts to adapt to the NHL as many other wunderkids have done in years gone by. This franchise knows this all too well, with Patrik Stefan being the first-ever Atlanta-Winnipeg selection.
Of course, the yet-to-be-official new Jet has also got people talking about the potential No.3 pick, Jesse Puljujarvi. One of the Jets' most avid Tweeters even suggested that Winnipeg should trade for that No.3 spot, currently belonging to Columbus, in the hopes of keeping the Finnish teens together, a la what a savvy Brian Burke did to secure both of the Sedin twins. Just as easily, though, Chevy could trade that No.2 selection for a superstar or series of prospects and current players. Neither scenario is likely to happen.
So with Laine's pending arrival to the River City, the question becomes when he will arrive.
It's easy to say he'll make the team straight out of training camp, but Chevy and coach Paul Maurice would then be looking at another year of a young team, one that proved disastrous for the Jets. Let's say, for argument's sake, that both Laine and Connor make the team out of camp. What then becomes of Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux, Scott Kosmachuk, Chase De Leo and Marko Dano? Do NHL capable players stay or get shuttled to the Moose again as sacrifices for spaces that are seemingly already assigned to the two proverbial NHL-out-of-the-gate Laine and Connor?
I'm not suggesting, by any stretch, that Chevy trade this No.2 pick, nor the 22nd pick, but there must also be some consideration towards the 2016-17 season and beyond.
Winnipeggers, thus, must be prepared for Laine to spend most of the 2016-17 season with the Moose, save for an eight-game audition. Ditto Connor.
What pundits, both amateur and paid, need to instead look at is the free agent market. It's been said over and over again, what killed the Jets in 2015-16 was the loss of veterans like Michael Frolik, Lee Stempniak and even Jim Slater, in the name of pushing the likes of Joel Armia and Nicolaj Ehlers up to the big league. The future wasn't now in October 2015, and it's not going to be 'now' in October 2016, either.
It's important to temper excitement with patience. Is it more important for Winnipeg to get back into the playoffs than to see Laine on NHL ice next year? Absolutely. Is there a chance that Laine can help drive the game forward and get Winnipeg into the postseason? Possibly.
Either way, be prepared for Laine to not be a full-time Jet come October. The future is bright, but it must be managed properly.
Jon Waldman is the Winnipeg Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.