Two nice boys.
This weekly column looks to discuss a certain number of relevant Jets topics on a certain day of the week. That certain number? Five. That day of the week? Friday. Also, hole. This is the Friday Five-Hole.
IAN WHITE, HEAD OF UFA’S
One week into the pre-season, defenceman Ian White remains unsigned. The UFA on a PTO has easily been the best defenceman for the Jets so far, despite playing his off-side for the first time since his tenure in Toronto. White was maybe the only bright spot in the Jets’ 3-1 loss Sunday in Ottawa – generating some offense from the point, giving up no even strength goals, and playing a team-high 24:11 minutes (White did not play in Winnipeg’s 3-2 win against the Oilers or their 4-1 loss to the Wild.)
GM Cheveldayoff can’t deny what a great fit the Steinbach, Manitoba native would be for the Jets. The 11 year veteran would balance out a top-heavy defensive core that seeks to integrate some of its inexperienced prospects this season. Money seems to be the only reason GMKC have yet to sign White, who has earned around $3,000,000 in each of his last three seasons. Cheveldayoff has only $2,300,000 of salary cap space left with other holes to fill within the team (like depth scoring – which I’ll get to, calm down).
White is coming off of a disappointing 2013 season in Detroit, where he spent part of the regular season and the entire post-season in the press-box. Coach Noel repeatedly downplayed the 2002 191st overall’s play several times this week in post-game interviews, shrugging off White’s "okay" play with a cool disinterest that would make my relationship with my father jealous. Perhaps Cheveldayoff is simply negotiating away from the table, keeping his cap situation in mind, and instructing management to publicly downplay the former Hurricane’s value.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they’re saying one thing about White and he’s showing us another. It’s like Pavelec all over again. Except White keeps pucks out of the net. And booze out of the car.
FREE AGENT POOL PARTY
Lack of cap room aside, GMKC would be wise to look at making some in-and-out moves to upgrade their bottom six forward group. Winnipeg’s new division will force them to be a more three dimensional team, sharing space with stingy systems like St. Louis and Nashville, rebuilds on the rise in Dallas and Colorado, and offensive onslaughts like Chicago and Minnesota (maybe not Minnesota so much, but come on, it fits the narrative – and also, Parise).
The Jets need depth forwards who will do these three things: chip in points, drive possession, and sign for next to nothing. Kyle Wellwood easily deserves another look. The fat 181 lbs. forward is only two seasons removed from scoring 47 points for the Jets on a $700,000 contract. Wellwood fell off a bit last season, but finished 2013 strong, putting up seven points in his final ten games. The ex-Atlant Moscow Oblast could potentially provide points and possession, and with his market value seemingly as low as it was two years ago, the Jets might be able to sign him for another near-league minimum contract.
While there aren’t too many eye-catching names left in the UFA pool, there are quite a few proven scorers left that may be willing to sign a low risk/high reward contract. Vinny Prospal scored 30 points with the BJ’s last season and could be a great help to Winnipeg’s worst -in-the-entire-league-power-
Those players may induce an eye roll or two from some, but go and look at who the Jets currently have to fill their third and fourth lines and your eyes are gonna roll and keep rolling even farther and soon you’re gonna look like The Undertaker.
You. But with the eyes.
B IN THE K
The Jets line-up looks an awful lot thinner on paper with the absence of Alexander Burmistrov. His poor relationship with Noel was well documented last season, and it had to be part of the reason the Russian Rocket (is that nickname taken yet?) fell well beneath expectations last year. Those things combined, Cheveldayoff decided to let Burmistrov walk, who then signed with his hometown Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL.
Since debuting in the K this season, the Russian Rocket is scoring a point per game. Burmistrov has played almost twenty minutes a night on the bigger surface, and put up seven points in his first seven games. (Go to the 1m, 10sec mark to see him ripping a "pretty accurate" shot)
It’s nice to see the Russian Rocket thriving in his homeland, but his potential has always been obvious. Sometimes players and the brass don’t mix, and that’s fine, but it’s always risky (and stupid and dumb) to let an asset go for nothing. Unless the Jets are hoping to repair their relationship with Burmistrov and convince him to come back in the future, every point he scores in the KHL this season should represent a tear streaming down Kevin Cheveldayoff’s face. Those tears may be able to fill a sizable bucket come playoff time.
STAND BACK, THERE’S A HAINSEY-CANE COMING THROUGH
Speaking of players the Jets probably should have re-signed, Ron Hainsey. The Hurricanes promptly signed the ex-Jet after it was announced that Joni Pitkanen would miss the entire 2013-14 season.
Hainsey’s tenacious manner at the negotiation table during last season’s lockout was reportedly a thorn in the owner’s side. Rumors circulated Hainsey would be "black-balled" by the league when his contract came up at the end of the shortened season. This would be reprehensible if true, although his signing with the Hurricanes would suggest those sentiments have cooled off. So what if Hainsey and Ryan Miller yelled at Jeremy Jacobs? So what if Canes owner Peter Karmanos said "we’re going to tie players’ salaries to the revenues of the league, and they can sit and be petulant and pout about it all they want"? Water under the bridge.
It’s just nice to see Hainsey, who played well for the Jets in his five seasons with the organization and weighs 95 kg, find a job and not be punished for his necessary role in the lockout. And besides, we’ve all forgotten about the lockout anyway, right?
I’m gonna log on to NHL.com and buy some Jet$ merchandi$e right now!
Captain Andrew Ladd had a hallmark season in 2013, leading the Jets with 46 point in 48 games. The Ladd’s consistent play earned him an invite to Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation training camp in late August, making him the only Jet who was asked to attend. Is the burly Maple Ridge native truly on the rise or will his production drop back to it’s usual rate?
It’s hard to analyze the shortened 2013 season, because the difference between 48 and 82 games is a big deal in the NHL. It was only a few seasons ago that Corey Perry stole the Rocket Richard and Hart trophies in the back-half of the season. Heck, if we had a full season last year, the Leafs could’ve had their usual, end of the year collapse and missed the playoffs. However, it does seem likely that Ladd will fall back somewhere between 50-60 points. It is rare for a player of his age and type to suddenly (and consistently) go from second line numbers to first line numbers (unless you’re David Clarkson, of course).
This hopefully should not have a huge effect on the Jets. Kane should continue to develop into a top flight player, the acquisitions of Setoguchi and Frolik will provide some scoring depth, and a lot of eyes are on rookie Scheifele to make a sizable contribution. Ladd is still one of the major puzzle pieces for the Jets, but if we’re realistic now, we won’t have to be disappointed later.
Let’s just remember that little mantra for the whole season, shall we?