Winnipeg Jets Week One Free Agency Recap

Grades and analysis from all the Jets moves since free agency opened


To Winnipeg: C Paul Stastny, 1 year remaining at $6.5 million

To Vegas: D Carl Dahlström, 1 year remaining at $850k, conditional 2022 fourth-round pick

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The players: Stastny, who turns 35 in December, had 38 points in 71 games last season for Vegas.  He followed that with nine points in 18 games in the bubble. He was acquired as a rental by the Jets in 2018 for prospect Erik Foley and a first-round pick (later traded to Toronto and became Rasmus Sandin).  Stastny helped the Jets reach the Western Conference Finals by scoring 15 points in 17 playoff games centering Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.  He also had 13 points in 19 regular season games.  Dahlstrom had one assist for the Jets in 15 games after being claimed off waivers from Chicago in October last year.

Analysis: While I expected Chevy to pull an additional asset out of Vegas in this trade, it’s hard to be upset with this deal in a vacuum.  Yes, Vegas was desperate to dump salary, but given how we just lost out on the Nate Schmidt “sweepstakes” I think we should consider it a win that we got a 2C who we know works well with on our team.  Dahlstrom is essentially an 850k cap dump.  Even with our ragtag group of D he wouldn’t be anything more than an 8-9 guy for us. He somehow managed to play worse than Anthony Bitetto and Luca Sbisa last year, which is actually quite the accomplishment.  And he was on a one-way, so he would’ve made the same in the AHL (provided there’s a season) as he would with the Jets. The fourth-round pick is essentially nothing.  Yes, good players are found in mid-to-late rounds, but the likelihood of that player having the impact that Stastny likely will is very slim.  The trade was rumoured to be Stastny plus a 2ndfor our 4th, so I obviously wish that would’ve happened, but there’s not much room for complaints with what ended up happening.  We filled the 2C hole for practically nothing.  I would consider extending Stastny (for cheaper) on a year-to-year basis after this season, depending on his pay, how much he wants, and whether or not Cole Perfetti is ready to take his spot.  Oh, and the condition for the pick is not much.  The pick gets converted if Stastny plays five games.  So it’s basically just a safeguard against COVID cancelling the season.  It’s to ensure we don’t give up the fourth for nothing.

Grade: A-



D Dylan DeMelo (4 years, 3 million/year)

D Nathan Beaulieu (2 years, 1.25 million/year)

D Luca Sbisa (1 year, 1 million)

F Mason Appleton (2 years, 900k/year)

F C.J. Suess (2 years, 725k/year)


D Dylan DeMelo (born May 1, 1993) (4 years, $3 million/year)

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Who: The defenceman the Jets traded for from Ottawa in February.  Although he was held pointless in ten regular-season games and four playoff games for the Jets, his presence on the blueline was an excellent addition for the team.  He’s a calm, defensively-sound guy.  He was a great partner for Josh Morrissey (Morrissey’s play improved substantially when DeMelo arrived) and I think he would be a good partner for Neal Pionk too.  The Senators originally acquired him from San Jose as part of the package for Erik Karlsson.

Analysis: I’m very pleased with this.  It kinda looked like DeMelo was gonna bolt to free agency.  He would have had plenty of suitors I reckon and likely could’ve gotten more than what we signed him for.  It’s refreshing to see a player potentially take less to stick here.  He’s not a world-beater or anything but he’s a solid defenseman that takes care of his end of the ice.  Every good team has a guy like him and he’s now signed to a reasonable contract.  I was a fan of the trade back in February, now that DeMelo re-signed, I adore it.

Grade: A


D Nathan Beaulieu (born December 5, 1992) (2 years, $1.25 million/year)

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Who: A physical, bottom-pairing defenseman that the Jets got from Buffalo for a sixth-round pick.  A former first-round pick, Beaulieu has never really lived up to expectations but has carved out an NHL career as a bit of a lunch pail guy.  He had one goal and seven assists in 38 games last year and added an assist in four playoff games.

Analysis: You know, I actually DON’T hate this.  If you think that’s controversial, just wait until later.  As I said, Beaulieu is a good lunch pail dude who plays physical, has the experience and isn’t that bad.  I don’t think he’s great, and I hope we acquire players to push him out of the lineup, but as a 6-7 guy, he is more than alright.  Remember, we got slaughtered physically by the Flames.  Beaulieu is one of the tougher guys who was pushing back.  I know we’re risking him being overplayed, but I actually am okay with this signing.  $1.25 million seems like a bit much for him, but it’s not a lot and I’m okay with it.

Grade: B-


D Luca Sbisa (born January 30, 1990) (1 year, $1 million)

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Who: The Jets claimed him off waivers from the Ducks last October.  The former first-round pick has over 500 games of NHL experience with the Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets.  He’s physical and can kill penalties.  He had two goals and eight assists in 44 games last year.

Analysis: I guess it’s time to get out the pitchforks because I did not completely hate this move either.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware Sbisa is a pizza man.  I’m aware he’s barely an NHLer at this point.  But I don’t mind the signing, and here’s why.  He’s decent depth, he came cheap, he has experience, and he’s physical.  The latter two are things we are lacking on this team.  He can also kill penalties and should be able to help our PK when he gets into the lineup.  I don’t think we’re gonna see him suit up for 82 games.  He’s fine as a press box plug who comes in when guys go down with injuries.  I thought he was one of the worst defensemen in the league when he was on Vancouver, and I wasn’t happy when we claimed him, but he actually played decently well.  Surely he was better than Dahlstrom and Bitetto.  I am OK with this signing so long as he is used sparingly as depth.

Grade: C+


F Mason Appleton (born January 15, 1996)(2 years, $900k/year)

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Who: Jets sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft who had a surprisingly strong rookie season with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL in 2017-18, scoring 66 points in 76 games.  He split the following season between the Moose and Jets, scoring 32 points in 40 games for the Moose and ten points in 36 games for the Jets.  Last season he had five goals and eight points in 46 games for the Jets.  He played in one playoff game before getting injured and missing the rest of the playoffs.

Analysis: Another signing you can’t really complain about.  At the very least he’s a good energy guy for the bottom six.  Perhaps he has the potential to move up in the lineup.  I see his ceiling as a Joel Armia-type player.  If he has a breakout year, this contract will be a bargain for the next two seasons.

Grade: B+


F C.J. Suess (born March 17, 1994) (2 years, $725k/year)










Who: The Jets drafted him as an overager in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.  He spent four full seasons playing college hockey with Minnesota State before turning pro and spending the past two seasons with the Moose.  He skated in his first NHL game with the Jets last season, a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Analysis: There was really no reason not to sign him.  He came at a reasonable rate and his play has justified another contract.  Potential bottom-six energy role for him at some point.  He’s like the Tucker Poolman of forwards for us — played a full college career (pretty much) and seasoned for a bit more time in the AHL. The Jets would be very happy if he ever becomes a full-time NHLer but at the very least they’ve got themselves a decent minor leaguer to hopefully finally help the Moose have a decent team.

Grade: B


UFA Signings:  

C Nate Thompson (1 year/750k)

F Dominic Toninato (1 year/700k)

D Derek Forbort (1 year/1 million)


C Nate Thompson (born October 5, 1984) (1 year/$750k)

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Who: Veteran of over 750 NHL games who has played almost exclusively in a defensive/fourth line role throughout his career.  Impressively, Winnipeg is Thompson’s 9th team.  Thompson began his pro career in 2005 and since then has suited up for the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.  He had four goals and 11 assists in 70 games split between the Canadiens and Flyers last year.  He added one goal in 16 playoff contests in Philly.

Analysis: At first, I was not happy at all with this signing.  I remember Thompson from his Tampa days, and I always thought he wasn’t any better than Jim Slater.  And he was terrible with Philadelphia in the playoffs this summer. However, I’ve begun to warm up to it a bit after doing some research.  Montreal fans really miss him, and they say he’s an almost perfect 4C: good defensively and on the draw, can kill penalties, has heart, and works hard.  We certainly could use some guys like that given how we looked in the playoffs against Calgary.  And he’s signed for nearly league minimum.  But can we take their word for it?  And there’s always the dangerous possibility he takes playing time away from a young, more deserving player though.  I like it better than the Letestu signing from last year but that’s not saying much at all.  I guess we’ll have to see how it shapes out. Maybe he wasn’t a fit in Philly and he still has game?  One can only hope.

Grade: C


F Dominic Toninato (born March 9, 1994) (1 year/$700k)

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Who: Yeah, I was wondering who this was too.  Hockeydb says he was a fifth-round pick by the Laffs —ahem, Toronto Maple Leafs, I mean — in 2012.  He played four seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  The Maple Leafs didn’t bother offering him a contract and so he became a free agent in with Colorado in 2017.  He split his first season between the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL and the Avalanche.  He had 12 points in 31 games for the Rampage and a measly two assists in 37 games for Colorado.  The following year he had 29 points in 57 games for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles and scored his first NHL goal later in the year for the Avalanche.  He was traded to Florida for another AHLer last year split time between the Panthers and their affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. He had four goals and 11 points in 46 games with Florida.

Analysis: One would have to think this is simply a replacement for Logan Shaw. Problem is, Shaw was never any good, and I would’ve preferred an upgrade rather than a lateral move at best.  This dude *SHOULD* play exclusively for the Moose this year, but I can see him ending up with some NHL games.

Grade: D+


D Derek Forbort (born March 4, 1992) (1 year/$1 million)

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Who: Former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings (boy, we’ve sure loaded up on first-rounders who haven’t quite lived up to expectations, haven’t we?) who apparently played with Doughty for a while.  After parts of five seasons with the Kings (where he managed to miss out on both of LA’s Cups), Forbort was traded to Calgary last season for a fourth-round pick.  He made his playoff debut against us later in the season.  He was scoreless in seven regular-season contests for the Flames but had a goal and an assist during ten playoff games.

Analysis: At six-foot-four and 220 pounds, Forbort brings some much-needed size to our defence.  Also, I read somewhere that he has experience playing in the top 4 and might not be complete garbage.  I imagine he might end up as another Beaulieu, but maybe he’s a guy that can answer the bell a bit more when the games get more intense?  Last season, Tkachuk and Giordano deliberately injured our top players (Tkachuk with his Achilles attack on Scheifele and Giordano with his dirty slash on Laine) and no one went after them.  Perhaps this signing is an attempt to show we won’t be bullied this year?  Out of the junk we’ve decided on bringing in via free agency this year, Forbort may be the best.  That speaks more to Chevy than it does to Forbort unfortunately.

Grade: C+


What’s still to come?

The Jets still have four RFAs without contracts: Jack Roslovic, Jansen Harkins, Sami Niku and Nelson Nogier.  I expect Harkins to sign a similar contract to Appleton within the next couple of days.  Nogier will get an offer eventually to stay with, and possibly captain, the Moose.  Roslovic and Niku are a bit more interesting.  It’s been reported that Roslovic wants out (citing a lack of ice time) and his name has been floated around the league in trade rumours.  One potential target seems to be MacKenzie Weegar, a 26-year-old defenseman from the Florida Panthers.  While that’s one route they could go, these rumours are seldom true.  I do believe Jack will be traded this season if he truly doesn’t want to be here, and a defenseman of some sort would be a part of the return.  Roslovic is a good player and I wouldn’t mind keeping him, but if we can get a good defender out of it, I’m all for it.  As for Niku, I just don’t see where he fits in anymore.  He had potential but hasn’t shown enough to stick in the NHL.  He wasn’t able to beat out the scrubs we iced last season and they keep bringing in guys to play ahead of him on the depth chart.  My best guess is he eventually ends up like Petan and gets tossed to some team for a minimal return.

For UFAs, mercifully Bitetto signed with the Rangers and Shaw with the Senators. Cody Eakin went to the Sabres which also isn’t a big loss.  I imagine Mark Letestu will retire, and Gabriel Bourque, Nick Shore, and Dmitry Kulikov remain unsigned.  Bourque was nothing and should be gone.  I thought they might give Shore a contract to play on the fourth line because he’s decent defensively (a black hole offensively though) but they elected to sign Thompson so I think he’s done here.  I doubt Kulikov is back, I thought they might sign him (to a cheaper deal) over Beaulieu or Sbisa, but that ship has sailed.  Maybe he goes to the KHL.

I don’t want to say the Jets are done this offseason until they bring in a top 4 defender.  Supposedly Chevy has had no contact with any UFA D so far, so I think they’re going to try to use Roslovic to get that defenseman.  If not, I think they’ll sign Manitoba-born Travis Hamonic.

As the season gets closer, I’ll take a look at how I project the Jets roster.  Stay tuned for that.

How do you think Chevy has done so far?  Let me know in the comments, or reach out to me on Twitter, @WHTRiley.  I would love to talk hockey with you.



  1. Mitch Kasprick says

    I wasn’t thrilled that they extended Sbisa and Beaulieu on the first day of free agency … there was no rush … nobody was going to sign them … Toninato should never see a Jets jersey …. Thompson is meh but he could be useful …. I’m just tired of signing useless aging guys for the fourth line … I would prefer to fill these spots with younger guys fom within.

    • Riley Malinowski says

      I agree — I’d rather see young guys too. While I don’t mind the Beaulieu and Sbisa signings, I don’t understand why they needed to sign both. Especially with Niku still here (for now) and bringing in Forbort. I guess Sbisa is their Dahlström replacement but Beaulieu will probably see regular ice time.

      They didn’t really sign any crappy wingers this year (yet), so maybe Vesalainen will have an opportunity to breakthrough.

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