Offseason Analysis: WINNIPEG JETS

winnipeg jets

WINNIPEG JETS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 43-26-13-99
Home Record: 23-13-5
Away Record: 20-13-8
Shootout Record: 7-6
Playoff Result: Eliminated by Anaheim in Western Conference Quarter-Final (series: 4-0 ANA)
Standings: Central Division: 5, Western Conference: 7, League: 14
Goals For: 223 (NHL rank: 16)
Goals Against: 204 (NHL rank: 20)
Power Play Percentage: 17.8 percent (NHL rank: 17)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 81.8 percent (NHL rank: 13)
Leading Scorer: Andrew Ladd (24-38-62)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The Winnipeg Jets have had perhaps the most quiet offseason of any team in the NHL. The reason for that is partly because the team is well-built and doesn’t need to make massive moves; part of it is also that the Jets completed a blockbuster trade during the regular season that mainly involved star winger Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian being shipped to Buffalo in exchange for Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers; and part of it is that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is sitting in his office listening to the ticking of a clock, waiting until he is forced to make moves later this season, as many of his team’s top players will become free agents in the near future. For the most part, the Jets tied up loose ends, made a few house-cleaning adjustments and took care of the minor details that needed to be addressed after the 2014-2015 season, which saw the Jets mount a thrilling push at the end of the regular season to make the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007 and its first since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011. Though the season was cut short when the Jets were swept by the Ducks, there is certainly momentum in the air in Winnipeg. The Jets have looked great during the preseason, with everyone attacking the puck, going to the dirty areas and playing with great energy and enthusiasm. Even though the end of last season was disappointing for the Jets, it was still an achievement that can be built upon moving forward. The Jets lost a few offensive players in the offseason, including Michael Frolik and Jiri Tlusty, so the team will need to make up for that loss in production. However, the Jets have tremendous young talent in the organization thanks to excellent drafting over the past several seasons, and though the team may be unable to retain all of the upcoming free agents, including defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd, there is certainly enough talent in the pipeline to keep this team relevant for many years. Though Cheveldayoff only made minor moves this offseason, the Jets look to be in good shape for the 2015-2016 season.
 

Training Camp Information: Winnipeg Jets
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:
None

Re-Signed:

  • F Drew Stafford (2-year deal with AAV* of $4.35 million)
  • F Alex Burmistrov (2-year deal with AAV* of $1.55 million)
  • D Adam Pardy (1-year contract at $1 million)
  • F Matt Halischuk (1-year contract at $750,000)
  • F Patrice Cormier (1-year contract at $650,000)
  • F Brendan Lemieux (3-year ELC with AAV* of $870,000)
  • D Paul Postma (2-year deal with AAV* of $887,500)
  • F Chase De Leo (3-year ELC with AAV* of $720,833)
  • D Ben Chiarot (2-year deal with AAV* of $850,000)
  • F Anthony Peluso (2-year deal with AAV* of $675,000)
  • D Julian Melchiori (1-year contract at $600,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • F Matt Fraser (1-year contract at $650,000)
  • D Andrew MacWilliam (1-year contract at $600,000)
  • G David Leggio–PTO (later released)

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (17) LW Kyle Connor
  • Round 1 (25) C Jack Roslovic
  • Round 2 (47) C Jansen Harkins
  • Round 3 (78) LW Erik Foley
  • Round 4 (108) RW Michael Spacek
  • Round 6 (168) C Mason Appleton
  • Round 7 (198) D Sami Niku
  • Round 7 (203) C Matteo Gennaro

Notable Extensions:
None

Free Agents Lost:

  • F Michael Frolik–Calgary
  • F Eric O’Dell–Ottawa
  • F Jiri Tlusty–New Jersey
  • D Julien Brouillette–Karlskrona HK (Sweden)
  • F T.J. Galiardi–IF Malmo (Sweden2)
  • F Patrick Holland–HPK Hameenlinna (SM-liiga)
  • F Jim Slater–UFA
  • D Keaton Ellerby–Barys Astana (KHL-Russia)
  • G Jussi Olkinuora–UFA
  • G Peter Budaj–PTO (Los Angeles)
  • D Will O’Neill–Pittsburgh
  • F Lee Stempniak–PTO (New Jersey)

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:

  • Named Zach Peters communications coordinator
  • Announced affiliation agreement with Tulsa (ECHL) for next season

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here are the most significant moves the Jets have made this offseason, and how they will affect this upcoming season:

  1. Brining back Burmistrov:
  2. burmistrov

    Bruce Bennett-Getty Images


    Originally a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2010 draft, Alexander Burmistrov played three seasons with the Thrashers/Jets before deciding to play overseas. Burmistrov has now returned to the NHL after a two-year stint in the KHL, and his presence in the lineup will afford the Jets more depth, more flexibility and more scoring options throughout the season. Though Burmistrov has never been a huge point-producer, he will help round out the top-nine group of forwards on the team. In the past two seasons with the AK Bars Kazan of the KHL, Burmistrov scored 38 points in 54 games and 26 points in 53 games. In his three seasons with the Jets, Burmistrov scored 20, 28 and 10 points, respectively (however, his 10 points in the lockout-shortened season would have been on pace for around 18 points in a 78-game season). Burmistrov will help make up for some of the offensive production lost in the offseason.
     

  3. Re-signing Stafford:
  4. Stafford

    via nhl.com


    The Jets re-signed forward Drew Stafford to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $4.35 million. Though the term on this deal is spot-on, the cap hit is a bit high for a player who is prone to injury and has not produced offensively on a consistent basis. However, since coming to the Jets from Buffalo in the Evander Kane trade, Stafford has excelled on his new team. In 26 games with the Jets last season, Stafford scored 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists). Losing a player of Kane’s magnitude is very difficult to make up for, and is something that Stafford cannot do on his own; however, Stafford seems to gel in Winnipeg and could have a very successful campaign now that he will have a chance to play for the Jets for the entire season.

    Of the signing, Stafford said, “I think the term works well for both sides… I’m all for the challenge of raising my game. I feel like I’ve got a lot left to prove. I still feel like I’ve got a lot left to show. The term and the money made sense for both sides.

    “If it’s still a good fit [in two years] we can maybe talk then about where we’re at.”

    Stafford will be looked upon to make up for some of the lost offensive production from the departure of wingers Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak. Stafford will most likely slide in on the right side on the Jets’ second line. Especially because Winnipeg is a much better team than the one Stafford played for in Buffalo, he should be able to put forth a successful and consistent campaign in the upcoming season.

     

  5. Not forcing a trade:
  6. ladd byfuglien

    Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2015-2016 season
    Jayne Kamin-Oncea: USA TODAY Sports


    Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be forced to make difficult decisions and choices over the course of the next season. Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd are both entering the final year of their contracts, and center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba will be restricted free agents next summer as they, too, have one year remaining on their deals. It seems unlikely that the Jets will be able to retain all of these players. Though the Jets’ patience may allow for the market to determine the value of any given player, asset or offer, it is respectable to see that Cheveldayoff has not forced a trade involving Byfuglien or Ladd just for the sake of getting it done. Other organizations often make impulsive decisions that backfire considerably, so it’s admirable to see the Jets remain calm in such a potentially-precarious situation.

 

Possible Line Combinations

No one knows how the lines will shape up after training camp and the preseason. Will any of the Jets’ impressive prospects crack the lineup? The dangerously-talented Nikolaj Ehlers seems to have the edge, but one or more prospects could make the team out of training camp. Cheveldayoff’s gut feeling on the fates of Byfuglien and Ladd could also influence his final roster decisions, as he may want young players to have a chance to develop at the NHL level to avoid a difficult transitional phase once veteran players like Byfuglien and/or Ladd are gone; also, if players like Byfuglien and Ladd are traded, there will be large holes to fill throughout the lineup, so the team will need some of the young players to fill those roles quickly. Only time will tell how Cheveldayoff and the Jets will handle this balance. That being said, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Jets in 2015-2016:
 

Forwards
Ladd-Little-Wheeler
Perreault-Scheifele-Stafford
Halischuk-Burmistrov-Ehlers
Fraser-Lowry-Thorburn

Defensemen
Enstrom-Byfuglien
Myers-Trouba
Stuart-Chiarot

Goalies
Pavelec
Hutchinson
 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

The Winnipeg Jets are on the cusp of becoming a consistent playoff contender. There is great depth in the organization, with talented prospects waiting in the wings, ready to step in and make a difference at the NHL level. The Jets also have multiple consistent veteran players, like Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, who continue to produce and help carry the team throughout the season. Tyler Myers, acquired in the Kane deal, seems to have made the most of his change of scenery and could finally become the defenseman he has been expected to be. Though the goaltending in Winnipeg has been very inconsistent, the duo of Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson played very well in the Jets’ playoff push towards the end of last season; Pavelec finished the regular season with three consecutive shutouts. If the Jets can receive consistent, quality goaltending, the team will be able to establish its presence in the very tough Central Division. The Jets have put together strong finishes over the past few seasons but, before last year, were unable to make it over the hump and land a playoff spot. Now the Jets know it can be done, so if the team can put together a more consistent effort over the course of the 82-game grind, the Jets could very well make the playoffs this year and be a competitive postseason threat. The Jets will just have to hope to avoid the injury bug that has so often been the team’s undoing.
 

Stay tuned for offseason overviews of all 30 NHL teams.
 
Featured image: Lance Thomson-NHLI via Getty Images