Nate Schmidt’s Late Season Surge is Best Case Scenario for the Jets

Nate Schmidt with the Winnipeg Jets

A few months ago, I wrote a strongly worded piece for an old outlet I wrote for analyzing some of the main reasons that the Winnipeg Jets should consider trading Nate Schmidt. This is one of the many cases where I was wrong, and I’m wrong because Nate Schmidt is having a late-season surge for the Winnipeg Jets.

This late season surge that Schmidt is having is beneficial as he went from being a trade candidate to a great player who has earned his icetime in a limited role. Additionally, having Schmidt in Winnipeg has been great for the fans and the teams’ lockerroom culture. There’s many reasons why trading Schmidt earlier this year would’ve been catostrophic, but the main point is that he’s proved himself and given the team a reason to keep him well into the 2024-25 season.

Stepping It Up In Crucial Defensive Aspects of his Game

In the first chunk of the season, the Winnipeg Jets arguably had seven other defensemen who had beat out Nate Schmidt for a spot on the roster. That hasn’t been the case in the later stages of the 2023-24 NHL season.

Rick Bowness has done a solid job putting Schmidt into an important, but sheltered role on the third line. While Schmidt isn’t playing 20+ minutes a night, he’s excelling in most aspects of the game and this limited role is a massive reason to his late season successes.

Given the larger than life presence that Schmidt carries, it’s no wonder why he is loved by fans and teammates every where he goes. If the salary cap was higher, there would likely be less eyes on the Jets veteran defenseman.

His Salary Cap Hit Isn’t Great, but the Cap Is Going Up

I think this speaks for itself. However, Nate Schmidt makes just $50,000 under $6 million making him prone to criticism like any other player. The Winnipeg Jets are facing salary cap constraints, but they’ve used every last dollar effectively. Schmidt commands a significant portion of the team’s salary cap space, and relative to his early season performance, moving the defenseman seemed like a good option.

The twist to that is the Winnipeg Jets franchise loyalty, they almost never trade a guy during their current contract and almost always let them expire. Being in a foot race for a better placing in the NHL standings, the Winnipeg Jets are hogtied to this contract with his modified no-trade clause and his veteran presence. The latter of the two makes for a strong veteran voice to speak to the younger players who are currently rotated in and out as healthy scratches or play with the Manitoba Moose.

Finally, Nate Schmidt’s contract wont look terrible in its final year. With the salary cap projected to go up around $5 million, this creates space elsewhere for the Jets to make moves and keep Schmidt. Like most teams, you can’t teach NHL experience to the young players. Nate Schmidt has been in the NHL since the 2013-14 season when he started the first of four seasons with the Washington Capitals. Schmidt has also gone on to the play for the Vegas Golden Knights and the Vancouver Canucks before finding his way to the Winnipeg Jets in the 2021-22 season.

Schmidt has played on some top teams throughout the years, this is a critical reason the Winnipeg Jets would consider keeping him long term on top of the many other factors. Additionally, the playoff experience and how strong of a lockerroom presence Schmidt only bolsters the reasons why he’ll finish his current contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

You Don’t Get a Better Lockerroom Guy Than Schmidt

I have mentioned this a couple of times already, but Nate Schmidt is part of the reason that the Winnipeg Jets lockerroom is so close nowadays. Whether its his appearances on othe jumbotron for the “Let’s Go!” squirtle saxophone videos or other clips of his appearing to be incredibly personable, this is a large factor as to why he is still with the Winnipeg Jets.

It’s hard to move a player from his team if he his loved by the fans and his teammates. The chemistry and long-term ramifications that moving Schmidt would have could prove catostrophic for the Winnipeg Jets who desperately need to rely on whatever chemistry they have. At such a crucial point in the hunt for a 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs berth, Nate Schmidt has definitely upped his game to match how loved he is by the Jets fanbase and his strong lockerroom presence.

If the Winnipeg Jets experience an injury that hinders their ability to compete at a high level, they have tons of veteran options to help spread the workload. Nate Schmidt being a core piece of the Winnipeg Jets lockerroom culture compliments the teams’ depth and plays into why the team has been so successful in the 2023-24 season. As for the last six games where the Jets have gone on a losing stretch, Nate Schmidt remains a solid piece for the teams defense, even when healthy scratched.

The Jets May Have Defensive Depth Issues, but That Becomes a Good Issue in Playoffs

While nothing is guarenteed, the Winnipeg Jets have eight games remaining in their 2023-24 NHL season. They are likely to make the playoffs, meaning they find themselves in a favorable position as they head into the postseason. Boasting a logjam of talent on the defensive end, the Winnipeg Jets have lots of options and even tougher decisions to make. While most will view this as a surplus of defenseman which creates a logjam, its actually an advantage as injuries can prohibit certain players from playing lots of minutes some nights. This was an issue in the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs as Josh Morrissey unfortunately suffered an injury which contributed to the Winnipeg Jets early exit.

Depth at any point in the regular season and the playoffs is crucial, Nate Schmidt has years of NHL experience, something that is incredibly valuable to any team. This allows the Jets to be well-equipped to handle any adversity they may face in the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. The competition among defensemen fosters a strong environment of excellence, pushing each player to elevate their performance to earn valuable ice time. This internal competition not only strengthens individual players, but also enhances the overall team culture and chemistry.

Notably, the extra bodies in any position gives the coaching staff an opportunity to adjust lines and pairings as needed. The versatility and depth the Winnipeg Jets boast isn’t a hindrance, but rather a strong recipe for success as they look forward to a long run in the 2024 NHL Stnaley Cup Playoffs. Having Nate Schmidt’s veteran presence combined with his leadership qualities and his late-season strong play has certainly helped the Winnipeg Jets stabilize their play, even in their losing stretches.

Conrad Jack

Conrad Jack is a lifelong hockey fan who is now actively writing for Inside The Rink covering primarily the Winnipeg Jets and the entire NHL second. He also covers the latest NHL News & Rumors, the NHL Entry Draft, and so much more for Inside The Rink.

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