Winnipeg Jets Free Agency 2015: Part 1

July 1 Free Agency and the Winnipeg Jets: Part 1  –

At first look, it would appear that Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has quite a lot of holes to fill in his forwards roster.  Only seven of twelve forwards are signed for next year with Anthony Peluso an RFA. Five of the seven will make up the top six (Captain Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Matthew Perrault, and Mark Scheifele) leaving just two (Chris Thorburn and Adam Lowry) for the bottom six. So going into the off-season, the Winnipeg Jets GM is looking for a winger to round out the top six with obvious attention on Drew Stafford. Stafford seemed to have a resurgence to his career once traded from Buffalo by lining up with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.  His possession stats leave a lot to be desired but his offensive production is not to be denied.

I would love to see Michael Frolik return to the Jets.  He is extremely versatile, able to move up the lineup and play wing or center.  His possession stats are stellar however his offensive upside is a little limited.  Unfortunately, he will likely demand similar money to Stafford on the open market and I just don’t see the Jets giving up that kind of dough for both.  Considering the Jets failed to lock Frolik down when he was an RFA last year and continue to be unable to sign him this year, I would put my money down on Stafford being the more likely of the two returnees.

Winnipeg Jets RFAs

Will Michael Frolik re-sign?

A major reason the Winnipeg Jets couldn’t make it out of the first round this year was that they were rather top-heavy (and their top players didn’t produce).  The Jets need to be able to better roll four full lines if they hope to improve on their first playoff appearance since coming to the peg.  As such, major attention will be given to the bottom six forwards this year.

Assuming that even if the Winnipeg Jets do tender an offer to Peluso, his playing time will be limited.  He played 49 games this year, often watching from the press box, as a healthy scratch.  This leaves the Jets still needing 2/3 of their bottom six to be filled.  Sure there are some blue chip prospects chomping at the bit for their chance and it is likely a couple will earn that opportunity.  However, even then the team needs a solid center to win defensive zone faceoffs and kill penalties while playing fourth line minutes.

It would seem unlikely that Jim Slater will be brought back for that role as he has clearly lost more than a step.  Rumor has it that Alex Burmistrov would like to return to the NHL after jumping ship to the KHL the last two seasons.  Provided he is more willing to play a team game this time, he could perhaps bump Lowry to the wing, centering the third line, or even take over the fourth/penalty kill role (Slater’s former role).  There is a lot of talk of bringing back Lee Stempniak who can play the third or fourth line cheaply with positive possession matrices.  If he can be signed to a short-term deal, then that could be wise to allow a rookie to get some AHL seasoning under their belt.

Winnipeg Jets Alexander Burmistrov

Could Alexander Burmistrov be in a Winnipeg Jets uniform this fall?

It is unfortunate that Eric O’Dell has elected to go to free agency as a class 6 (being of the age 25 or older but with under 80 games played).  His skill set is exactly what the Jets need for 12-13 minutes per game on the third/fourth line: big bodied, fast, fore-checks, and seems to think the game quickly.  I thought he played well two seasons ago when paired with Evander Kane and had moments this year as well.  He would come cheaply but has been left with a sour taste from being under utilized so is seeking a better fit elsewhere.

On the defensive side, there are seven defencemen signed with 3 RFA’s (Paul Postma, Benoit Chiarot, and Keaton Ellerby ).  With so much depth and young stud in waiting Josh Morrissey, I would personally like to see Dustin Byfuglien moved back to his hybrid forward/defence role he has occupied for parts of the last two years.  His big body, aggressive fore-check, heavy hitting, space making ability was missing in the Anaheim series and his penchant for making bone headed decisions costs the team less when he isn’t the last man back.

Barring any trades, the Winnipeg Jets goaltending tandem looks to reprise their role in 2015/16.  A situation I am happy with.  Pavelec is good enough to be a 1A or 1B tender but just not a bona-fide starter.  Hutchinson can be hot for stretches though he sure looked like he was rattled at the end of the season.  To add a little fuel to the fire, Connor Hellebuyck had a terrific first year as a pro in the AHL.

So bring back Burmistrov, move big Buff to the wing, add one or two rookies (Joel Armia, Nik Ehlers, and Nic Petan will all get their shot) and the Winnipeg Jets really only need one, at most two, free agent signings.

Winnipeg Jets potential lines for 2015-16 –

Ladd/Perrault/Little
Wheeler/Scheifele/Stafford
Armia/Lowry/Byfuglien
Thorburn/Burmistrov/Ehlers

Myers/Enstrom
Trouba/Chiarot
Stuart/Clitsome

Pavelec
Hutchinson

written by Guest Blogger aneegadole


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Comments

  1. George Bain says:

    A lot of questions on the Jet’s front and no news so far. One question that intrigues me is whether Burmistrov is a Jet or is traded away? If he’s a Jet where does he fit in? Cheveldayoff has his work cut out for him and we will soon see how well he does.

  2. aneegadole says:

    Think I read that Burmistrov played this year mostly as a checker / penalty killer. He should be coming back to the NHL with more realistic expectations than when he left thinking he should play top 6 minutes. Jets need strong center depth so I am hopeful they will not trade him away and that he can better fill the roll left vacant by the likely departure of Slater.

  3. Why play Ehlers on the 4th line when you could play him in the QMJHL instead?

    • Mitch Kasprick says:

      I agree ….. scorers need play in the top 6 or top 9 at worst … Ehlers will get his 8 or 9 games and if he can’t play defence he” go back to the “Q” …. BUT I’m not sure how much defence he’d learn back in junior … a bit of a catch 22.

      • Aneegadole says:

        Same reason that Drouin played bottom six minutes in TB this year. Valuable experience. Both players have proven all they need to prove in the Q. Time to take another step forward in career progression.

        • Mitch Kasprick says:

          I’d be okay with Ehlers starting on the 3rd line …. by the 2nd half of the season I could see him pressing for a larger role in the top 6 and PP.

  4. Todd Leroux says:

    If Scheifele is a top six, then the Jets don’t have any future worth discussing.

    The guy has zero hockey sense.

    IMO.

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