Southeast Division Free Agency: Winnipeg Jets

I won’t lie, it still feels weird calling this team the Winnipeg Jets seeing how I wrote a bunch of pieces on them when they were the Thrashers. It’s going to be weird seeing Evander Kane and Bryan Little wearing different uniforms even though they weren’t on Thrashers for a long time. Anyway, the Jets are under new ownership, new management and have a new coaching staff but there’s no need to blow up this roster for the time being. They have some good youth within the organization along with some players who are decent trade bait so this isn’t a complete mess but it’s hard for me to be 100% confident in saying that this team will be good next season. Last year they got off to a great start but most of it had to do with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec playing out of his mind and he obviously couldn’t do that every game and the team plummeted in the second half.

What Have They Done So Far?

True North purchased the team and relocated them to Winnipeg– Think everyone knows the story here. Has an impact on how much the team is going to be willing to spend and how much money they draw in. Definitely will be an improvement over Atlanta.

Named Claude Noel head coach and Kevin Cheveldayoff general manager – Noel’s most recent NHL coaching experience was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009 as their interim head coach after Ken Hitchcock was fired. He led to the team to a 10-8-6 record which isn’t terrible but could be a lot better. He did a solid job with the Manitoba Moose and seemed to be the first candidate for the job so here’s hoping he can use his defensemen in the same manor that Craig Ramsay did. I think he’s smart enough to know that Dustin Byfuglien shouldn’t be used in shorthanded situations, though.

Cap Crunch

Jets still need to spend $13 mil to get to the cap floor which shouldn’t be too much of a problem with the restricted free agents they have still waiting for new deals (Andrew Ladd and Zach Bogosian in particular). They still have a lot of spending to do so I don’t think getting to the cap floor will be a problem. They have about $35 mil invested in 15 players (8 forwards, 5 defensemen, 2 goalies) and are going to need to round out their bottom-six anyway if you look at their potential roster.

Ladd (RFA) – Antropov ($4,062,500) – Little ($2,383,333)
Kane ($3,100,000) – Burmistrov ($1,500,000) – Wheeler (RFA)
??? – Slater ($1,000,000) – Thorburn ($866,667)
??? – Cormier ($854,166) -Stapleton ($525,000)

Byfuglien ($5,200,000) – Enstrom ($4,500,000)
Bogosian (RFA) – Oduya ($3,500,000)
Hainsey ($4,500,000) – Stuart ($1,700,000)

Mason ($1,850,000)
Pavelec ($1,150,000)

RFA: Ladd, Wheeler, Bogosian, Maxwell, Festerling
UFA: Schremp, Stewart, Dvorak, Meyer

Schremp and Stewert were UFAs but Winnipeg elected not to sign their tenders. Schremp is unnecessary because the team has too many centers and it’s better they give his roster spot to Cormier or someone who kills penalties (i.e. Jimmy Slater). Anthony Stewart was not tendered because he was only good for a few weeks in the season and then reverted to being a third line plug. The other potential RFA’s could do very well for themselves in the next month or so, though.

Team Needs:

I suppose you could do worse than their first two lines but there’s definitely room for improvement there. However, when you’re a team like Winnipeg that’s still building for the future there isn’t a lot of need to chase big free agents and overpay them so it might be best for them to stay put there. Signing Ladd and Wheeler would be in their best interest, though. They also better hope Burmistrov improves on his rookie season because he’s the de facto 2nd line center now. He’s got a load of talent, though but it only seemed to come out in small bursts instead of being consistent. As for the rest of their roster, they really need to look into signing some bottom-six wingers since that position is pretty bare right now on both sides. Thorburn and Stapleton aren’t that good and I’m sure there are cheap options in free agency they could replace them left. Carl Klingberg may take one of the left wing spots but Winnipeg giving someone like Andrew Gordon, Brian Sutherby, Ryan Johnson or Marek Svatos a chance to fill that whole could happen. I’d also like to think that they would sign another defenseman because Mark Stuart isn’t that good and they would like to at least get a 7th defenseman for the time being. Also re-signing Bogo seems like it should be a priority but the Jets have a lot of money invested in their blue line as it is with the Byfuglien extension.

Expectations:

Like I said in the intro, I don’t really have a lot of confidence in this Jets team but there’s some great pieces there. They aren’t a team that needs to tank for a draft pick or rebuild completely but I think they should look into trading a couple players on here who may fetch decent returns (Antropov, Oduya) and use them to get better in the long run. I’m very excited to see how Kane and Burmistrov continue to improve this season. If anything, this team will be a little more fun to watch this season and hopefully they won’t depend on Pavelec to steal every game.

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