Previously, Ezra posted his “Five UFA Forwards the Winnipeg Jets could target“. Before I begin to select Free Agents at will, lets take a look at what the Jets forwards group might look like this coming season and predict what types of players they need.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that the Jets will re-sign their RFA’s (Evander Kane and Spencer Machacek).
Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Kane – Antropov – Burmistrov
Machacek – Free Agent?- Miettinen
Thorburn – Slater – Cormier
In the mix: Ben Maxwell, Mark Scheifele, Jason Gregoire, Carl Klingberg
Departing via Free Agency are Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass, Eric Fehr and Tim Stapleton. Entering the lineup in their place are Spencer Machacek who scored nine points in eleven games during his second call up and Patrice Cormier who is a gritty player that can take face-offs and be used on the penalty kill..
Last season the Jets regularly carried twelve forwards, opting for depth on defense. They have showed to be risk averse, opting for one year deals with players. Last season their free agent signings were Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass and Derek Meech.
After looking at the potential group of forwards, and the Jets history in free agency, it would be reasonable to think that the Jets will make very minor low risk acquisitions. The potential player types they need are a second/third line player who could spend time on the power play (a Wellwood replacement) and a gritty third/fourth line player who can spend time killing penalties (a Tanner Glass replaement).
Potential Wellwood Replacements:
Kyle Wellwood – Re-signing Wellwood should be an option for the Jets to consider. He spent time on all four lines and finished fifth on the team with 47 points. He will likely be looking for a raise and a multi-year deal next season. If no other offer is on the table for him, he can always come back to the Jets in September.
Lee Stempniak – Stempniak made $1.9 million last season with the Calgary Flames. His 28 points were his worst offensive season since his rookie year in 2005-06 when he scored 27 points. Stempniak has shown scoring potential in the past, potting 27 goals in 2006-07 and 28 in 2009-10. On a one or two-year deal, he could have a bounce back year similar to Wellwood’s.
Additional reading: Sportsnet.ca: Flames face tough decision with Stempniak.
Potential Glass Replacements
Tanner Glass – The “G” in the GST line became a fan favourite in Winnipeg for his tougness, willingness to block shots and never quit attitude. He was one of the the Jets first free-agent signing for $750,000 and is reportedly looking for somewhere between that and Jim Slater’s $1.6 million. As recent as June 13th, Glass has said that the deal is “80-85% done“ making it appear more likely that Glass will be back in a fourth line role.
Jordin Tootoo – Born in Churchill, Tootoo turned down a contract offer from Nashville after he was upset with his reduced playing time. Winnipeg can offer him additional playing time as well as a chance to play close to home. After entering the substance abuse program in 2010, Tootoo had his best season last year scoring 30 points in 77 games. With a renewed commitment to hockey, he could improve on that total next season.
Additional reading: Jordin Tootoo season in review: Expectations met?
As they say, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. For those who think the Jets will make a splash in free agency, after looking at their roster, it is likely that the team may stay put, and simply wait out all the free agents like they did last year signing Kyle Wellwood. The team’s focus is the future and they may just sit back and let their players develop while staying close to the cap floor.
All salary cap and contract information retrieved from CapGeek.