It\’s a little bit more fun to be a Winnipeg Jet than a New York one, but that doesn\’t make the hockey team good. Last year, the top-six forwards and goaltending carried the team to the postseason, as the defensive core barely recovered from some major losses. The team got a little bit better in the offseason, but we\’ll have to see if they are playoff ready.
Additions: F Paul Stastny, F Nate Thompson, F Dominic Toninato, D Derek Forbort, F Trevor Lewis.
Subtractions: D Dmitry Kulikov, D Anthony Bitetto, F Cody Eakin, D Carl Dahlstrom.
Best Move: Extending Dylan DeMelo for four years.
Worst Move: Not getting more defensemen.
One Move I\’d Make: Sign Madison Bowey to a one year deal.
Best Contract: Connor Hellebuyck, four years remaining with a $6.16 million cap hit.
Worst Contract: Bryan Little, four years remaining with a $5.29 million cap hit.
New Division Rivals: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver.
Pending UFAs: Paul Stastny, Adam Lowry, Laurent Brossoit, Mathieu Perrault, Derek Forbort, Nate Thompson, Tucker Poolman, Luca Sbisa, Dominic Toninato.
Pending RFAs: Patrik Laine, Neal Pionk, Andrew Copp.
Current RFAs: Jack Roslovic.
The Jets have a great top-six, but it falls off quickly afterwards. Mark Scheifele had another nice season, although he was not nominated for any awards this year, the first time that has happened since 2015-16. Scheifele scored 29 goals with 44 assists for 73 points. He struggles defensively, but his overwhelming offensive input raised his GAR to 12.5. Tied with Scheifele for the team lead in points was Kyle Connor, who also led the team with 38 goals. It was Connor\’s third consecutive 30 goal season. Captain Blake Wheeler scored 22 goals, hitting the 20 mark for the seventh consecutive season. After two straight 91 point seasons, Wheeler only had 43 assists, for 65 points in 71 games. There were heavy trade rumors around Patrik Laine this offseason entering a year where he\’ll be a restricted free agent afterwards. Laine scored 28 goals in 68 games last year, which was actually a career low. When you have a 22 year old winger who has played in four seasons and 28 goals is his low, you probably shouldn\’t trade him. Nikolaj Ehlers has scored at least 20 goals in the past four seasons, with at least 25 in three of them. 25 was his exact goal total, as he had 58 points to go with that. The Jets brought back Paul Stastny, taking advantage of Vegas\’ cap situation. Stastny scored 17 goals with 38 points last year. he worked as Laine\’s center when the Jets acquired him at the 2017-18 trade deadline. He had 13 points in 19 games, with 15 in 17 playoff games as a Jet. Jack Roslovic is still an RFA, and a trade is possible. I\’ll put him in the projected lineup for now, because I have for all RFAs. Last year, he scored 12 goals with 29 points as a bottom-six center. Six-foot-five forward Adam Lowry had 10 points in 49 games, but he also had 137 hits. Lowry is very good at face-offs, so Roslovic can go to the wing or the fourth line. Andrew Copp scored 10 goals with 26 points, which are fine bottom-six numbers. He spent more time per game on the penalty kill than any other Jet forward. Mathieu Perrault was waived today, but he could still stay with the team. Perrault was once a consistent 30-40 point scorer, but he had just 15 in 49 games last year. He can play on the power play, and he averages more than one hit per game. Nate Thompson comes over after being the fourth line center for the Flyers during their playoff run. He had 15 points in the regular season, with one in 16 playoff games. Mason Appleton had good AHL numbers and he was mainly an NHLer last year. He scored five goals with three assists in 46 games. Trevor Lewis comes in on a PTO after 12 seasons in Los Angeles. He scored six goals with six assists in 56 games last year. 2017 1st rounder Kristian Vesalainen scored 12 goals with 30 points in 60 AHL games last year. He had eight points in 10 games in the 2020-21 season in Finland. Jansen Harkins had seven points in 29 games last year after 31 points in 30 AHL games. He scored a goal in his three playoff games. 2018 2nd rounder David Gustafsson was rushed to the NHL last year, as he had one goal in 22 games. He had seven points in 13 AHL games, with 17 in 16 games this season in Sweden.
Entering last year, the Jets had a depleted defense with Josh Morrissey being the one player fans were confident in. He had 31 points for the second consecutive season, although his 59 blocked shots broke a three year streak of 100+. Neal Pionk was a pleasant surprise for the Jets last year, as he outplayed Jacob Trouba, the guy he was traded for. Pionk had 45 points with a +10 rating. 25 of his points came on the power play. Defensive defenseman Dylan DeMelo came over at the trade deadline, and while he had no points in his 14 games, including the postseason, the Jets liked him enough to bring him back for four years. DeMelo had a 4.6 GAR for the Jets and Senators last year. Tucker Poolman scored 16 points in 57 games in his first full season. He averaged both a blocked shot and a hit per game. Nathan Beaulieu averaged 17 minutes on ice per game last year, with eight points in 38 games. He had a 4.4 GAR. Derek Forbort was a mainstay on the Kings\’ defense for three years, but he only played in 13 games for them last year. He was traded to Calgary, and had a goal and an assist in their 10 game playoff run. Luca Sbisa has played for four teams in the past four years, but he may finally have a team for more than a season, if he isn\’t claimed off of waivers. Sbisa had 10 points in 44 games last year, for the third highest points per game mark of his 12 year career. Sami Niku has had his chances, but has never proven that he\’s an NHL player. Niku had five points in 17 games last year, with 14 in 18 AHL games.
The Jets may need to worry about Connor Hellebuyck, which seems weird to say, but he has been a workhorse for the past three seasons. For the second year in a row, no one saw more shots than Hellebuyck. He had a .922 SV% with a 2.57 GAA and a 22.40 GSAA. He also led the league with six shutouts, capturing the Vezina trophy. If he posted these great numbers, why worry? His usage is similar to Cam Talbot\’s in Edmonton, and look at Talbot now. Backup Laurent Brossoit has been inconsistent in his 68 game career. He was great in 2018-19, but awful last year, with an .895 SV% and a 3.28 GAA. If Brossoit looks good out of the gates, maybe the Jets should consider giving him some playing time so Hellebuyck can start all the important games down the line.
Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Paul Stastny – Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perrault – Nate Thompson – Mason Appleton
Extras: Trevor Lewis, Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen, David Gustafsson
Josh Morrissey – Neal Pionk
Nathan Beaulieu – Tucker Poolman
Derek Forbort – Dylan DeMelo
Extras: Luca Sbisa, Sami Niku
The Jets have their stars, but overall they lack as a team. The bottom-six and defensive core is weak, and those stars carried the load too much last year. That will run out on the Jets this year, as only Ottawa will finish lower than them in the North Division.