Top 5: Players You Forgot Were Winnipeg Jets

Originally joining the NHL in 1979 after the World Hockey Association merged with the National Hockey League, financial issues forced the Winnipeg Jets to move to Arizona in 1996. After 15 seasons without a team, the Jets returned home in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg. For this piece, we will be combining their history and looking at both team’s rosters for player you forgot cut their teeth for the Winnipeg Jets.

Number 5- Lee Stempniak

Once a bright young goal scorer, Stempniak’s name became famous as a player who was dealt at every trade deadline. He played for 10 different teams in his 14-year NHL career. On March 1, 2015 Stempniak was traded to the Winnipeg Jets from the New York Rangers, becoming his seventh NHL team. He holds the distinction of scoring the first playoff goal for the “new” Winnipeg Jets, the first playoff goal scored on Winnipeg ice since Norm Maciver on April 28, 1996. Despite the feat, Stempniak was not re-signed by the Jets in the summer, ending his short tenure with the Jets after 22 games.

Number 4- Chris Mason

After rebounding his career with the St. Louis Blues from 2008 to 2010, Chris Mason signed a two-year deal with the Atlanta Thrashers, ideally to give them some peace of mind in net. It ended up being the worst statistical season of his career, posting a goals against above 3.00 for the first time as well as his lowest save percentage at .892. Mason accompanied the team in their relocation to Winnipeg but lost the starting role to Ondrej Pavelec. He played in 20 games as a Jet, with only eight wins and just slightly better numbers than the season before with a 2.59 GAA and .898 save percentage. In the offseason he signed a one-year deal with his original team the Nashville Predators.

Number 3- Nikolai Khabibulin

Nikolai Khabibulin had an 18-year career that saw him become the first Russian-born goaltender to win the Stanley Cup, but his legendary career started in Winnipeg when he was drafted 204th overall in 1992. He made his NHL debut during the 1994-95 season and formed a tandem with Tim Cheveldae. Khabibulin overtook Cheveldae as the starter the following season. His number were fairly pedestrian both seasons in Winnipeg, but he still played in 79 games. Khabibulin accompanied the team during their relocation to Phoenix where he played 70 games a season for two years in a row.

Number 2- Stu Barnes

Best remembered for his long stints with either the Panthers, Sabres, Stars, or Penguins, Stu Barnes’ career started when he was drafted fourth overall by the Jets in 1989. His back-to-back 140 point seasons with the Tri-City Americans gave the Jets hope he would be able to translate that high-scoring ability to the NHL immediately, though that didn’t exactly happen. Barnes spent much of his first full pro season in the AHL, being recalled for 46 games later in the season, though only racking up 17 points. Next season was much of the same, starting in the AHL and recalled to play 38 NHL games, and putting up 22 points. The following year Barnes started in the NHL, though after just 18 games he was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Randy Gilhen.

Number 1- Kris Draper

The four-time Stanley Cup champion spent 17 of his 20 years in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, though he didn’t start his career there. Also taken by the Jets in the 1989 draft, 62nd overall, Draper played three NHL games during the 1990-91 but was returned to his junior team the Ottawa 67’s to finish out the season. The following season he played 10 NHL games while spending the rest of the season in the AHL. Draper again found himself in the AHL for a vast majority of the 1992-93, only suiting up for seven games in the NHL. After four seasons and only 20 NHL games, the Jets traded Draper to the Detroit Red Wings on June 30, 1993 in exchange for one dollar. Yes, you read that right, and the rest is history.

Honorable Mentions

Tie Domi

Just 84 games into his NHL career with the Leafs and Rangers, Tie Domi had already racked up 568 penalty minutes, and that was just the beginning. On December 28, 1992 Domi was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Ed Olczyk, and his reign of terror would take hold. Racking up 249 penalty minutes in the Jets’ remaining 49 games, He would set a career high the following season with a whopping 347 minutes. In 1993-94, Domi started the season with the Jets and, by his standards, had a tame start with just 128 penalty minutes in 31 games. Domi was dealt back to the Maple Leafs on April 7, 1995, ending his tenure in Winnipeg with 724 penalty minutes in 161 games.

Johnny Oduya

Johnny Oduya moved from New Jersey to Atlanta during the blockbuster Ilya Kovalchuk trade in 2010. He then followed the team during their relocation to Winnipeg in 2011. Oduya started the inaugural season with the Jets, but was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2012 trade deadline for a pair of draft picks. Oduya ended his Jets tenure with 13 points in 63 games.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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