When Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff traded away Andrew Copp, it came with much lament. Moving the fourth-longest serving player on an up-and-down, middle-of-the-pack postseason regular seemed a bit far fetched.
But one would have to fully understand the story at hand to give a fair assessment.
And unfortunately, that story has yet to reach its ending.
Drafted 104th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Copp was chosen by the Jets as an over-ager, to whom management thought of as a player they could see playing alongside fellow Compuware AAA teammate Jacob Trouba well into his thirties.
Well, the truth is, he very well may be playing alongside his childhood friend Trouba for many years to come. However, it just won’t be in the polar night blue colour palate dreamed of by Jets’ management.
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By all accounts, Copp became one of the most likable, and hardest working members of Winnipeg’s forward corps over his seven years within the organization. A defensive specialist, the now 27-year-old turned on his offence over the past two seasons. A 15-goal, 39-point 2020-21 campaign (which featured just 55 games) led to another arbitration hearing, to which the relationship between Copp and the Jets continued in its downward spiral.
Having signed a two-year, $4.56 million deal in time for the 2019-20 season, Copp watched as his bosses stuck it to him in another arbitration hearing, eventually settling on a one-year, $3.64 million deal on August 12 of 2021.
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He went on to put up the best numbers of his career.
Scoring 13 times and adding another 22 assists for 35 points in 56 games for Winnipeg, Copp became a hot commodity in the days leading up to the 2022 Trade Deadline.
He was ultimately shipped to the New York Rangers, where he went on to produce eight goals and 18 points in just 16 games to close out the season on Broadway, where he was, of course, re-acquainted with his fellow Michigan product Jacob Trouba.
“His leadership is there,” Cheveldayoff said following the trade. “There’s a lot of friendships in there. I think it’ll be tough. You know, certainly, for a lot of guys, I don’t think they’ll ever lose those friendships. But again, I think that when we signed the contract that we had to sign to get him under the cap this year, I think guys knew that anything was always a possibility. And, you know, I don’t think anyone wanted to see him leave, but by the same token, these things happen. Trades happen.”
The Blueshirts put up an impressive 2021-22 regular season, securing a place in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Copp has continued his offensive dominance in the process.
Through 34 playoff games with Winnipeg, Copp had just three goals and 12 points. And with the Rangers, you ask? Now having skated in 11 postseason games, he has scored five times and added another five assists for 10 points. His club got through the first round and is currently deadlocked at twos with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I think we’ve played a pretty good series so far,” Copp said following Tuesday’s 4-1 victory. “Just trying to build on some of this momentum we’ve created in these last two games. Guys are feeling a little bit better about themselves and we’ve got to ride this momentum into Carolina [for Game 5].”
He actually lead all skaters with one goal and two assists in the outing.
“I think they pushed hard and we were maybe a little bit on our toes in the third but getting that fourth goal to kind of alleviate a little bit of that pressure was huge for us,” Copp said. “But I think the never-die mentality has been in this team from Day One, and I’ve kind of felt that from walking in a couple of months ago. I feel like the new guys have kind of fit right in with that mentality.”
Clearly, the fit with the Rangers has been better than even those in managerial positions within New York’s front office could have imagined. Fans of the Blueshirts want Copp signed to a long-term extension, while his teammates are revelling in the accolades and added points he has been able to provide them.
Oh, and on the other side of it, the Jets are actually happy with Copp’s production.
In being dealt alongside a 2023 sixth-round pick for prospect Morgan Barron, two conditional second round selections and a 2023 fifth rounder, Copp’s production is helping the Jets’ added stipulation to the 2022 second-round selection in play.
If New York advances to the Eastern Conference Final and Copp skates in at minimum half of his club’s postseason games, that 2022 second-round pick will become the Rangers’ 2022 first-round pick at the upcoming draft.
With two more wins needed in order to fulfill the main portion of that condition, only time will tell. But fans and management of the Winnipeg Jets will surely be cheering on their old friend as the second round continues to unfold in the coming week.
Whether for a sake of personal gain or solely for genuine interest and support of a quality individual, one would have a tough time cheering against Andrew Copp.
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