The Winnipeg Jets found a productive first line in 2012-13, and the trio of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler all set career highs in points per game.
They consumed more than 20 percent of the team's even-strength ice time together, according to the line combination info at Dobberhockey.com, making them one of the most often-used trios in the NHL. The next four most frequent combinations for the Jets included Evander Kane, which is a pretty good way of showing the team spent most of its season trying to find players to put with their budding star on the second line.
When the Jets traded a second-round pick Friday to the Minnesota Wild for Devin Setoguchi, they may have found a more permanent solution. Setoguchi, who has played on one of Minnesota's top two lines for the past two seasons, could be the legitimate top-six forward Winnipeg has lacked to help support Kane.
"We talked about it briefly [after the trade]," Setoguchi said during a conference call Monday about possibly playing with Kane. "Obviously that could be the initial step, but you never know until you get to camp. If I do get that opportunity, it is pretty exciting. He's a pretty special player and a pretty electric player. That's something that would be pretty exciting for myself."
Kane finished third on the Jets in goals (17) and points (33), but led the club in time on ice per game for forwards (20:41) and shots on goal (190). He might not be the team's most consistent player -- that would almost certainly be Ladd -- but he is undoubtedly the club's most dynamic.
Finding someone who has experience skating with star players and can help relieve some defensive attention could give Kane a chance to blossom into one of the elite power forwards in the League. That will part of Setoguchi's responsibilities with his new club. Given that no other forward on the Jets beyond Ladd, Wheeler and Kane scored more than seven goals last season, adding Setoguchi's typical production -- he's averaged at least 0.27 goals and 0.51 points (that's about 22 and 42 in a full season) each of the past four years with Minnesota and the San Jose Sharks -- could help the Jets be a better offensive team.
"I try to play a two-way game and use my speed as much as possible and at the same try to put some points up," Setoguchi said. "I use my body as much I can to try and be a well-rounded player and shoot the puck and try to put goals in the back of the net."
Setoguchi spent most of the 2012-13 season on Minnesota's second line with center Matt Cullen and a rotating cast on the other wing. Rookie Jason Zucker settled there during the team's five-game appearance in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Setoguchi played a lot with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley in his first season with the Wild.
That meant Setoguchi lined up on the left side, but being paired with Kane with a center to be determined (Olli Jokinen seems like the most obvious player to get the first crack) means Setoguchi will be a fixture at his more natural right wing position.
Setoguchi has been known as a shooter during his six-year career. He averaged just more than two shots on goal per contest in 2012-13, but that was easily his lowest. Now he likely will be skating with one of the League's most prolific shooters; Kane was second in the NHL in 2012-13 with 190 shots on goal and ninth the season before with 287.
"I'm sure we can mix and match," Setoguchi said. "It is always good to play with a guy … I don't think he just likes to shoot. He's a pretty good player and he can do a lot of things besides just shoot."
The Jets did not make any major moves on the free-agent market, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff did upgrade his forward lines with a pair of trades. Along with Setoguchi, the Jets picked up Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks on the day of the 2013 NHL Draft, and he could have a chance to find a role on the team's third line after getting mostly fourth-line minutes with the Blackhawks.
Setoguchi and Frolik will hope to help the Jets into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since moving to Winnipeg. The postseason is something the new additions are quite familiar with.
"They were right it in all the way to the end last year," Setoguchi said of the Jets, who finished ninth in the Eastern Conference. "It is exciting to get a chance to join a young team that is on the uprise and has the potential to make some huge strides. They've added a couple new players and a little bit of experience in adding Frolik, who is young but has won the Stanley Cup, and I have upwards of 50 playoff games myself. It is an exciting time."