To say that this is the biggest offseason in Winnipeg Jets 2.0 franchise history is not hyperbole.
The Jets entered last season primed to make a postseason run. Some even picked them to win the Stanley Cup. (Gulp.) They ended up not only finishing eight points short of the postseason, they were also in the conversation among the most disappointing teams. The Jets could never quite string it together – for a myriad of reasons. Winnipeg’s collection of talent was never completely realized; long-time coach Paul Maurice stepped aside in December when their progress flatlined; and the Jets went into tailspins that they could not pull out of, in an 82-game season that featured seven losing streaks of three games or longer.
This summer poses no shortage of significant questions to be answered. Is it time for a significant roster overhaul? How will this core be remade? Can the Jets bounce back into playoff form? Who will be their next head coach? We’re only just beginning to get some insight.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler is now among 30 names in play with 15 days until the NHL Draft:
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1. Alex DeBrincat Left Wing, Chicago Blackhawks Age: 24 Stats: 82 GP, 41 G, 37 A, 78 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $6.4 million AAV Scoop: The question seems to be ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the Hawks will move the two-time 40-goal scorer. Is it this summer, or before next season’s trade deadline? If it seems odd that the rebuilding Blackhawks would want to move a sniper just hitting his prime with more goals than Nathan MacKinnon and Brad Marchand over the last four seasons, consider these three points: 1) DeBrincat is Chicago’s best trade chip to begin stockpiling future assets; 2) By the time Chicago gets to where they want, he will be middle-aged by NHL standards; 3) With a $9 million qualifying offer due at the end of next season, they’d need to pay big to keep him on what should be a struggling squad.
2. Kevin Fiala Left Wing, Minnesota Wild Age: 25 Stats: 82 GP, 33 G, 52 A, 85 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, $5.1 mil qualifying offer, Arbitration eligible Scoop: There is no doubt, no question that the Wild would like to find a way to keep Fiala, who was such a big part of their offense last season. But with $12.7 million coming in dead cap space next season due to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, Fiala may simply be a luxury Minnesota cannot afford on an AAV somewhere between $7 and $8 million. The hope has to be a full season of Matt Boldy will fill the void, along with whatever useful and (comparatively) inexpensive pieces GM Bill Guerin can get in return for Fiala. It’s easy to envision Fiala playing alongside fellow Swiss countryman Nico Hischier in New Jersey.
3. Blake Wheeler Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets Age: 35 Stats: 65 GP, 17 G, 43 A, 60 Pts Contract: 2 more seasons, $8.25 million AAV Scoop: Sources say the Jets have begun to explore the market and engage with teams on the possibility of moving Wheeler, the franchise stalwart and last remaining holdover from the Atlanta Thrashers days. Wheeler has complete control over his destination until July 1, when his full “no-move” clause converts into a five-team list to which he’d accept a trade. The early sense is Wheeler may be willing to consider a proposed destination that also is not on his list, if it’s a proper fit for his family and career. Will his cap hit prove difficult to move? Maybe not. Wheeler could be the missing piece for a contending team as a point-per-game, play-driving winger with size and heart.
4. Jakob Chychrun Left Defense, Arizona Coyotes Age: 24 Stats: 47 GP, 7 G, 14 A, 21 Pts Contract: 3 more seasons, $4.6 million AAV Scoop: As his name swirled in rumors last season, Chychrun said he learned one lesson: “Stay off the phone.” Chychrun also hinted in his end-of-season media availability that he isn’t up for more scorched earth rebuild in the Valley of the Sun. “That stuff is important to me. I want to be in a position where I’m getting ready to play [in the playoffs], not packing up and leaving the boys.” Will the Coyotes get their return? The four-piece package Arizona asked for was met with polarizing views from other GMs.
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5. John Gibson Goaltender, Anaheim Ducks Age: 28 Stats: 56 GP, 18-26-11, 3.19 GAA, .904 Sv% Contract: 5 more seasons, $6.4 million AAV Scoop: Gibson’s agent set the record straight and said his client did not request a trade in Anaheim. Nonetheless, the Ducks are more than open to moving him. He was first floated by new Ducks manager Pat Verbeek in March as a lifeline to any teams in need of a netminder. Gibson’s contract may be prohibitive in term for a goaltender who has been below league average in save percentage for each of the last three seasons – but the Ducks could be willing to retain salary to increase the return. At the right cap hit, Gibson could be a great fit for a playoff team, as one of the most consistent and talented goalies in the league just a few years back.
6. J.T. Miller Center, Vancouver Canucks Age: 29 Stats: 80 GP, 32 G, 67 A, 99 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $5.25 million AAV Scoop: This summer is where the rubber meets the road for Miller in Vancouver. Miller is eligible to sign an extension as of July 1 and it’s going to be expensive. Miller has racked up 217 points in 202 games with the Canucks. Are the Canucks willing to pay on a long-term deal? Miller turns 31 at the end of the first season of a new deal. Does Miller, an Ohio native, want to stay in Vancouver? And are the Canucks willing to enter the season with Miller if no extension materializes? Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said recently on the DFO Rundown that the team will “know by the Draft” which way this is heading.
7. Tony DeAngelo Right Defense, Carolina Hurricanes Age: 26 Stats: 64 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: DeAngelo was in the conversation for the NHL’s Comeback Player of the Year as he revived his career in Carolina. He played at a 65-point pace in the regular season (over 82 games) and chipped in another 10 points from the back end in the playoffs. His one-year, $1 million contract was mutually beneficial – a bargain for the ‘Canes, and a lifeline for DeAngelo after being exiled from the Rangers. Now, Carolina likely won’t be able to afford to keep him, a player who the team says was “extremely well-liked” in their locker room.
8. Devils’ No. 2 overall pick New Jersey Devils Scoop: You’d have to go back more than two decades, to 2001, to find the last time a team traded out of a top three pick after landing there in the Draft Lottery. It was a whopper. The Islanders dealt the rights to No. 2 pick (Jason Spezza) to Ottawa with Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckalt in exchange for Alexei Yashin. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald says New Jersey is open to it this year: “I’m open to whatever can help our team improve.” If they decide to keep the pick, they’ll have their choice of one of Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, Logan Cooley or really talented defensemen David Jiricek and Simon Nemec. Good place to be.
9. Tyson Barrie Right Defense, Edmonton Oilers Age: 30 Stats: 73 GP, 7 G, 34 A, 41 Pts Contract: 2 more seasons, $4.5 million AAV Scoop: The Oilers aren’t down on Barrie, so much as they’ll need to create salary cap flexibility if they’re going to take a run at re-signing Evander Kane. Sliding Barrie, an elite power play facilitator, elsewhere would be one way to try to achieve that. The ready-made defense solution would be if 2019 No. 8 overall pick Philip Broberg is ready to take the next step, to pick up the slack for Barrie on the right side with Cody Ceci and Evan Bouchard next season.
10. Jesper Bratt Right Wing, New Jersey Devils Age: 23 Stats: 76 GP, 26 G, 47 A, 73 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: Admittedly, Bratt is a bit of a perplexing name on the board. GM Tom Fitzgerald said after the season Bratt is a big part of New Jersey’s future. Makes sense. He is a heck of a player. He’s young. He’s worked his way to become a point-per-game guy from a sixth-round pick. On the other hand, sources indicated Bratt was available at the deadline last spring. To my knowledge, there have been no contract extension talks to this point for what will be an expensive deal. Add in Fitzgerald’s mandate to find “hard skill” this summer, and well, it makes you wonder.
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11. Pavel Zacha Center, New Jersey Devils Age: 25 Stats: 70 GP, 15 G, 21 A, 36 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: It’s never a problem to be well-built down the middle, but it feels like the Devils have run out of room for Zacha in New Jersey with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier ahead of him at center. Zacha hit a new career-high in points (36) last season while playing the most minutes (1,179) of his career. There’d be no harm if the Devils were to keep Zacha, the sense is that they’d be able to better parlay a return for him into more help elsewhere in the lineup.
12. Jeff Petry Right Defense, Montreal Canadiens Age: 34 Stats: 68 GP, 6 G, 21 A, 27 Pts Contract: 3 more seasons, $6.25 million AAV Scoop: Last season was a write-off for both Petry and the Montreal Canadiens. Both the player and team struggled, and the Habs acknowledged they would try to facilitate a trade to help Petry, whose family was back living in the U.S. That’s tough for any player. At the same time, the Canadiens know Petry didn’t suddenly forget how to play hockey, the pandemic restrictions have lifted now, and they aren’t willing to pay assets to move a player that is surely better than last season indicated. He’d be a solid backup plan in Pittsburgh if the Penguins aren’t able to re-sign Kris Letang.
13. John Marino Right Defense, Pittsburgh Penguins Age: 25 Stats: 81 GP, 1 G, 24 A, 25 Pts Contract: 5 more seasons, $4.4 million AAV Scoop: The Penguins received a few calls on Marino ahead of last season’s deadline, but remained focused and committed on their playoff push. The truth is Marino is not Pittsburgh’s preferred choice to move on their back end. That would be Marcus Pettersson. But no team seems willing to take on Pettersson’s three more years at just over $4 million, while there are teams interested in Marino, and the Penguins have a real need to move money if they’re going to run it back with Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust next season.
14. Semyon Varlamov Goaltender, New York Islanders Age: 34 Stats: 31 GP, 10-17-2, 2.88 GAA, .912 Sv% Contract: 1 more season, $5 million AAV Scoop: Ilya Sorokin is the guy on the Island. There’s no question about that. Yes, you need two goaltenders to share the workload now more than ever, but Lou Lamoriello may be able to lean on Sorokin and use Varlamov’s $5 million to help rebuild a defense corps that is in desperate need of help. The Islanders had two 40-year-olds make up one-third of their blue line last year. There’d be lots of interest in Varlamov, who had a strong season and will have just one year’s worth of string attached.
15. Alec Martinez Left Defense, Vegas Golden Knights Age: 34 Stats: 26 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 Pts Contract: 2 more seasons, $5.25 million AAV Scoop: Martinez struggled mightily with a facial injury that manifested in migraines and concussion-like symptoms, causing him to miss nearly 60 games. He is healthy now and ready to contribute. Even so, it’s probably fair to say he has lost a step in the process, so his level of play isn’t likely to be commensurate with his pay. That’s a gamble the Golden Knights can’t afford to make. Would there be suitors for Martinez, with his 12-team “no-trade” list, if Vegas was willing to retain maybe $1 million? That’d be an intriguing bet.
16. Anthony Beauvillier Left Wing, New York Islanders Age: 25 Stats: 75 GP, 12 G, 22 A, 34 Pts Contract: 2 more seasons, $4.15 million AAV Scoop: Beauvillier’s name popped up on a few teams’ radars in the last week or so, someone that the Islanders may be willing to part with this summer if Lou Lamoriello has any designs on shaking things up. Beauvillier’s progression seems to have flatlined a bit. After scoring 21 goals in 2017-18 as a 21-year-old, he has not been able to get back to that mark, netting just 12 in 75 games – which was a drop-off from the previous season. He is no doubt a talented player, which is why teams may have interest, even if he isn’t exactly producing commensurate with his cap hit.
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17. One of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto Forwards, Edmonton Oilers Ages: 24, 23 Stats: 65 GP, 14 G, 22 A, 36 Pts / 81 GP, 20 G, 21 A, 41 Pts Contract: Both Pending RFAs, both Arbitration Eligible Scoop: It’s a safe bet that one of these two players will not be returning to the Oilers next season. Both are fan favorites. But both require new deals, likely both raises, and GM Ken Holland acknowledged that Edmonton will have to watch every dollar. “Am I willing to trade some assets in a deal that will make us better? Yes I am,” Holland said Wednesday. Edmonton’s preference would likely be to keep Yamamoto, but he would bring the bigger return.
18. Lawson Crouse Left Wing, Arizona Coyotes Age: 24 Stats: 65 GP, 20 G, 14 A, 34 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: If Chychrun is available, then why not Crouse? His name has been out there for a while. That’s the current plight of the Coyotes. To date, Crouse and the Coyotes haven’t been able to come to terms on an extension. He will certainly be in line for a raise coming off his first career 20-goal season. The big (6-foot-4) and rangy winger will draw interest from teams for his size, even if his game isn’t overly physical. He is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after two more accrued seasons.
19. Kasperi Kapanen Right Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins Age: 25 Stats: 79 GP, 11 G, 21 A, 32 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: Logic would dictate that as the Penguins attempt to re-sign Kris Letang, then Evgeni Malkin, that they may soon run out of money to pay Kapanen. His qualifying offer is low, but he’s likely looking at an arbitration award in the $3.5 million range, and he falls below Evan Rodrigues on the pecking order as the Pens dish out their dollars. Kapanen may be a player Pittsburgh simply cannot afford to keep as they also search for a netminder to play in tandem with Tristan Jarry.
20. Patric Hornqvist Right Wing, Florida Panthers Age: 35 Stats: 65 GP, 11 G, 17 A, 28 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $5.3 million Scoop: The Cats are facing a cap crunch. They have $6.5 million in dead cap money hitting the books next season and Hornqvist is a player they can no longer afford. He is Florida’s fourth highest-paid forward under contract for next season, but ninth in ice time. GM Bill Zito has been able to wiggle out of tough contracts – Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly – so expect no different this time around with the two-time Stanley Cup champion Hornqvist.
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21. Mackenzie Blackwood Goaltender, New Jersey Devils Age: 25 Stats: 25 GP, 9-10-4, 3.39 GAA, .892 Sv% Contract: 1 more season, $2.8 million AAV Scoop: It wasn’t long ago that Blackwood was considered the next hot, young netminder. He has the pedigree as a high second-round pick and his first 70 NHL games were excellent from 2018 to 2020. Blackwood struggled with a heel injury last season and his numbers have struggled for two seasons now. The sense is the Devils, who can ill afford another season with shoddy goaltending, have lost faith in Blackwood. He could be a great option for a bounce back campaign in tandem with a veteran on a strong team with limited salary cap resources.
22. Carson Soucy Left Defense, Seattle Kraken Age: 27 Stats: 64 GP, 10 G, 11 A, 21 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $2.75 million AAV Scoop: I don’t believe there is any push for the Kraken to move Soucy, but there is no shortage of interest in a player like him. At 6-foot-5, Soucy is a redwood tree on the back end, and he chipped in 10 goals last season to set a new career-high in Seattle. If the Kraken are not going to be competitive next year – and won’t be re-signing him – then it makes sense to explore those trade conversations now.
23/24. Tanner Pearson, Jason Dickinson Forwards, Vancouver Canucks Ages: 29, 26 Stats: 68 GP, 14 G, 20 A, 34 Pts / 62 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 Pts Contracts: 2 more seasons, $3.2 million AAV / 2 more seasons, $2.65 million AAV Scoop: Rutherford said recently on the DFO Rundown that the amount of money the Canucks can move off their books will determine how big of a player they are on the trade and free agent market this summer. We know from Pittsburgh that Pearson is not Rutherford’s type of winger. He’s already traded him once. Dickinson is vastly overpaid for his production, but it will cost assets to move him. The Canucks will be working to try and find suitors for both.
25. Filip Zadina Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings Age: 22 Stats: 75 GP, 10 G, 14 A, 24 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, not eligible for arbitration Scoop: There was no shortage of excitement around Zadina when the Red Wings selected him at No. 6 overall in 2018. GM Steve Yzerman doesn’t tip his hand, but the sense league-wide is a change of scenery is in order for Zadina. He is a gifted shooter, but the knock on him is that he’s become more of a perimeter player – and only a select few players (Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos) can consistently score in today’s NHL from the outside.
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26. Joonas Donskoi Right Wing, Seattle Kraken Age: 30 Stats: 75 GP, 2 G, 20 A, 22 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $3.9 million AAV Scoop: Not to pile on, but you can add the decision to select Donskoi over J.T. Compher as one of the big bogeys in the Expansion Draft for Seattle. Compher is four years younger and is an impact piece on this Colorado run to the Stanley Cup Final. Nonetheless, Donskoi feels like a perfect change-of-scenery candidate after a miserable, two-goal season. His shooting percentage should rebound, even if his shot volume was way down from previous campaigns.
27. Philippe Myers Right Defense, Nashville Predators Age: 25 Stats: 27 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $2.55 million AAV Scoop: Why Myers, a player who has already passed through waivers? Myers represents a unique and quirky opportunity for a cap-strapped team that can trade for him and actually create salary cap space with a buyout. Because Myers is 25 and his deal is backloaded, his buyout would result in a $616,666 credit on next season’s cap, followed by a $633,334 charge the following season. This has happened before (see: Jared Cowen in 2016) and the Toronto Maple Leafs pounced on the deal.
28. Justin Holl Right Defense, Toronto Maple Leafs Age: 30 Stats: 69 GP, 3 G, 20 A, 23 Pts Contract: 1 more season, $2 million AAV Scoop: Holl has been passed on the Leafs’ depth chart by Timothy Liljegren, making him eminently available. His contract is not unreasonable for a third-pair defenseman who can chip in 20 points consistently, but it’s also fair to say Toronto probably should have moved him when there was more interest and his value was higher.
29. Ethan Bear Right Defense, Carolina Hurricanes Age: 24 Stats: 58 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 Pts Contract: Pending RFA, Arbitration Eligible Scoop: The Hurricanes have allowed Bear to contact other clubs in hopes of finding a trade fit. After a solid start, Bear fell out of favor in Carolina. He was a healthy scratch for all 14 Hurricanes playoff games. There are questions lingering about Bear’s fitness and maturity, and this is unquestionably a massive summer for his career and future. Someone will take a shot to see if they can unlock a clearly talented player.
30. Josh Anderson Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens Age: 28 Stats: 69 GP, 19 G, 13 A, 32 Pts Contract: 5 more seasons, $5.5 million AAV Scoop: GM Kent Hughes’ phone has rang consistently with teams inquiring about Anderson, whose skillset makes him a rare breed in today’s NHL. Anderson has skill, he can move, he’s big and has brawn. Oh, yeah, and he’s locked up for five more seasons at a very reasonable number for a guy who has knocked on the 30-goal door. To date, the Habs have resisted the urge and likely some tempting offers, but you have to at least allow for the possibility that they get a ‘Godfather’ offer they cannot refuse.