Cody Eakin was traded to the Winnipeg Jets by the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
"There's no question that I think he adds an element that helps you get into the playoffs and is an extremely valuable thing when you are in the playoffs," Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Jets website. "He brings people into the fight with how he plays. It's something that really fit from that kind of perspective."
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The 28-year-forward is in the final year of a four-year contract and can become an unresected free agent July 1. He has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 41 games this season.
"I didn't see this opportunity coming," Cheveldayoff said. "It was [a trade] we adjusted to more than targeted. Over the course of the last couple of days in the conversations we've had, the coaches felt, and myself, that this is a good direction for this group to go."
Coach Paul Maurice said he's excited about what Eakin adds to the Jets' lineup.
"A centericeman for one. We've had our run of injuries at center that has been a real challenge for us to manage," Maurice said. "A veteran player and most importantly it's the grit of a player that likes to get into the corners, makes plays, his defensive reads are really good. We can use him in that half the game. But we're also talking about a guy that scored 22 [goals] last year. He's had at tough start this year but he's had a run of high teens. He can make plays, he can shoot the puck. But it's a little veteran grit in our lineup. We're still a very young team. Veteran grit on the defensive side of the puck will teach them on the ice that's how the game is supposed to be played."
Eakin, a Winnipeg native, was acquired by Vegas in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
"For me, I'm excited about getting Cody Eakin the hockey player, regardless of where he's from," Cheveldayoff said. "That factored in more than anything for us. The fact he's from Winnipeg is a nice maybe sideline. The fact he's the player that he is, that's the reason we got him."
If the Jets qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or re-sign Eakin to a contract before July 6, the Golden Knights would receive a third-round pick. Winnipeg (32-25-5) holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference; Vegas (32-22-8) is in first place in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round (No. 85) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Eakin has 232 points (102 goals, 130 assists) in 578 regular-season games with the Golden Knights, Dallas Stars and Capitals, and 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 46 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"Cody was someone that really intrigued the coaches when I brought his name up for the first time," Cheveldayoff said. "Cody is a guy that oozes character. He's had tremendous playoff experience over the last couple of years. [He's a] tremendous character person, brings guys into the fight with how he plays and then the energy and leadership that he brings. I'm real excited to add a player like that into our room and on the ice."