Jets Free Agency Preview

Note: This article was meant to be posted on June 30th, but I lost power on Friday night and just had it restored today. Therefore, some of the information might be outdated.

The Jets have only been in Winnipeg for a year now, so we are all still figuring out Kevin Cheveldayoff’s tendencies and habits as a GM. So far, we can say that he’s made some very questionable draft choices, hasn’t spent a lot in free agency and overpaid for a mediocre talent. Not exactly a good start to the new regime despite the Jets strong home record in their “inaugural season.” It’s still tough to figure out what moves he will make in free agency because he didn’t do much last year and I’m not sure if the Jets have to funds to pursue big free agents. They could in a few years but that’s unknown as of right now.

We might find out this year because Winnipeg has more than a couple holes to fill in their forward corps and they may have to sign a couple players in order to address those needs. Lord knows they have the cap space to do so but like I said earlier, I’m not sure what the Jets’ money situation is but I’m sure that it’s not anything that will keep them making the moves they want.

 

 

LW

C

RW

Andrew Ladd

Bryan Little

Blake Wheeler

Alex Burmistrov

Antti Miettinen

Nik Antropov

Jim Slater

Chris Thorburn

Patrice Cormier

Defense

Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom

Ron Hainsey

Zach Bogosian

Grant Clitsome

Mark Stuart

Goalies

Ondrej Pavelec

Restricted Free Agents:

Evander Kane, left wing – Kane is apparently reluctant to sign in Winnipeg for some reason. This is bad news because he is a very solid talent and has only gotten better every season. His big frame and goal-scoring ability is something that is welcome on just about every team. The Jets need to make sure they can get some kind of deal done with him.

Spencer Machacek, winger – Machacek was called up during the latter part of the year and was pretty impressive during that time. He’ll likely be back on a cheap contract. He’s a big forward who can provide a nice physical presence on the third line.

Ben Maxwell, left wing – It’s undetermined if Maxwell will ever build off the impressive point totals he has accumulated in the AHL but players like him always have some use an organization even if they only have success in the minors. Maxwell is still pretty young so he might have some time to work things out and make his way onto the Jets roster.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Kyle Wellwood, center/wing – One of Cheveldayoff’s better signings was getting Kyle Wellwood for near the league minimum. He had a 47-point season in limited ice time and provided the Jets with some valuable scoring depth. The only downside of Wellwood is that he played some incredibly soft minutes and that makes you wonder if he will be able to succeed in the future when he isn’t playing in these situations. That being said, Wellwood has posted strong underlying numbers for years so there are plenty of reasons for GMs to take a chance on him, especially if he is cheap.

Tanner Glass, right wing – Glass was absolutely buried at even strength by Claude Noel last season. He was started over 65% of his shifts in the defensive zone and ranked second on the Jets in quality of competition, as well. His underlying numbers took a huge beating as a result but he along with Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn were not relied on to drive the play forward, they just had to avoid getting killed in their own end. This plan partially succeeded because the these three taking all of the tough minutes freed up easier ice time for their top-six. The problem is that Glass, Thorburn and Slater are defensive stalwarts and ended up getting nailed on the shot meter. Winnipeg may look for a better third line winger this off-season.

Tim Stapleton, right wing – Stapleton provided a decent amount of secondary scoring for the Jets with third/fourth line minutes but it becomes less impressive when you see that almost half of his points came on the powerplay. You eyebrow also raises when you see that he was one of Winnipeg’s most sheltered players and the team still couldn’t drive the play at all when he was on the ice. I guess some teams may look at Stapleton if they need powerplay help but not much else.

Mark Flood, defense – The Jets defense suffered so many injuries last year that they needed to call-up the former Albany River Rat, Mark Flood. Jokes aside, he isn’t bad if you’re looking for a solid AHL defenseman who can play a few games in the NHL if needed.

Randy Jones, defense – I’m not sure what a team’s motivation would be for signing Randy Jones. He was mostly used in protected situations for the Jets last year and was still underwater possession-wise. He didn’t produce much offensively either with only one goal and two points in 39 games played. There are better options out there for teams needing defensive depth.

Chris Mason, goalie – Mason is nothing more than a back-up at this point of his career. He had only five quality starts in 15 games and a save percentage that was around replacement level, which is a sign that he will probably struggle to find a job in the NHL next year unless some team really wants a veteran. He might be worth a gamble but his performance over the last two seasons isn’t promising.

Peter Mannino, goalie

Non-NHL Players

Mark Schiefele, forward – Schiefele was good enough to make the team out of camp last year but Winnipeg wisely sent him back to juniors. He is probably another year or two away from the NHL but there are always a lot of teams who are hasty to call-up their top prospects if they like them enough.

Carl Klingberg, winger – A big, physical winger, Klingberg has a lot of tools that can land him a bottom-six role in the NHL but that’s what his ceiling appears to be. With Machacek likely to make the team, it’ll be tough for Klingberg to find a spot as well.

Team Needs

2nd/ 3rd line Right Winger: I’m not sure how the team plans to use Burmistrov next year but if he stays at center, the Jets will need to find a right winger for his line. They can also afford to find someone that can succeed in protected minutes like Kyle Wellwood did last year because the Slater and Little lines will be handling most of the tough competition. This will make their search somewhat easier because there are a few of these players available.

Possible Targets: Jiri Hulder, Jaromir Jagr, Petr Sykora, Steve Sullivan, Brian Rolston, Jamie Langenbrunner

Back-up Goaltender:  The Jets have Ondrej Pavelec locked up for the next five years. Now they just need to find someone to back him up with Mason leaving. They did trade for Jonas Gustavsson but who knows how that’s going to end up.

Possible Targets: Scott Clemmensen, Justin Peters, Al Montoya, Brent Johnson, Martin Biron, Dan Ellis

Second Pairing Defenseman: As of June 29th, Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian are slated to be the Jets’ shutdown pairing. My thought is that they want an upgrade here or some additional defensive depth. Hainsey is overpaid and always injured so it wouldn’t hurt the Jets to get some insurance.

Possible Targets: Adrian Aucoin, Sami Salo, Greg Zanon, Michal Rozsival, Scott Hannan, Filip Kuba

Defensive/penalty killing winger: Basically someone to replace Tanner Glass on the third line. It shouldn’t be too hard of a task because Glass gave the team replacement level production and you can find players like him for almost next to nothing. They might aim to upgrade by looking for a more defensive minded winger who can be used more often on the penalty kill. That would improve their shutdown line by a lot.

Possible Targets: Daniel Winnik, Mathieu Darche, Radek Dvorak, Adam Burish, David Moss, Marco Sturm

What have they done so far?

Traded a 7th round pick to Toronto for Jonas Gustavsson

The Jets needed a back-up goalie and were able to get Gustavsson for next to nothing. Of course, the reason why they got Gustavsson for next to nothing is because his performance in the NHL has been pretty brutal to say the least. If they can get anything that’s above replacement level from him then it’s an improvement over what they had in Mason. If they don’t, then all they lost was a 7th round pick.

Re-signed Jim Slater for two years

It’s a bit of an overpayment but I think Slater plays a big role on the team as the third line center. He isn’t necessarily a shutdown center because he constantly gets torched in his own end but he also plays some incredibly tough minutes with bad linemates. I like that the Jets kept him around but it’s hard to say that he’s a terribly skilled or talented player.

Re-signed Ondrej Pavelec for five years at $3.9 mil. per year

Disgusting overpayment for a goalie who has been average at best in the NHL. I know the Jets’ hands were tied by the situation but I honestly think they would have been better off letting Pavelec walk. He hasn’t shown to me that he is a good goalie and he sure as hell hasn’t proven that he’s worth almost $4 mil. per year. He might be able to earn this contract but this is a poor investment for the Jets.

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