The Jets came to terms with RFA Paul Postma yesterday, leaving only the Big 3 still without contracts of the RFA’s who filed for arbitration. Postma had an uneven season, posting 4-5-9 in 34 games, but scoring two of his four goals in one game against the Islanders and being posterized on a number of ill-advised pinches late in the year. As with Tangradi, we’ll look at the player and the contract separately.
He had the fewest even strength minutes per game of any defenceman used by the Jets this year, and faced the easiest oppostion available (7th easiest of 9, easiest among those who played 20 games). He also had a tremendous zone-start push, starting 60% non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive end – the only Jet defender to start more than 54% of his shifts in that end. Of course, that was partly because of Postma’s particular talents for offence, and he did have among the best raw and relative corsi ratings on the team despite going -5 in +/-.
Within the swarm system of Claude Noel, Postma’s tentative own-zone coverage and large gaps in transition were problematic. His most memorable defensive moments came in high-risk, high-reward pinches to prevent transition. The NHL is not the only place he’s had defensive issues, going -16 in his AHL career despite impressive scoring totals (136 points in 215 games over four seasons). We don’t have a good sense of his minutes in those years, but we know that he’s used as a scoring option from the blue line wherever he goes.
Ultimately, at 24 years old, Postma looks unlikely to become a staple defender for a playoff-quality team, but remains one of two right handed options for the powerplay on this Jets squad. The powerplay, we all remember, was the worst in the league last season. With Enstrom injured and a miserable second forward unit, we can’t place all the blame on Postma who managed a reasonable 4 powerplay points in just under an hour of time with the man-power advantage. At best, Postma is a specialist on a defence group without enough multi-tool, two-way defenders.
Postma signed a two year deal for $1.425M – slightly more than Tangradi – for a cap hit of $712,500. The deal is for a mere $650K this year, increasing to $775K next. In the case of Tangradi, the two year deal made sense for both sides. It gave Tangradi a chance to move up the lineup with little risk to the Jets, who paid him as a bottom 3 player in both years and have a host of other players to flush should Lowry or Petan emerge more quickly than expected. In the case of Postma, the Jets already have a log jam of 10 NHL or cusp-of-the-NHL defenders on the roster. The contract actually blocks the possibility of better defencemen taking his place and suggests a pattern that is common for bad teams: an unwillingness to give up on players, even if those players don’t help them win.
Postma is waiver eligible next season, and with $1.425M invested, it’s unlikely the Jets send him down to start the year even if Redmond or Trouba appear better at training camp. His signing likely signals that Trouba starts with the IceCaps, and Postma’s second year leaves open the possibility that the team will watch Kulda go back to the KHL or Redmond be flushed. For a budget team, paying an offence first defenceman $775K to play in the AHL seems unlikely. They have, in essence, made a choice on these players 2 months before training camp.
If the team intends an honest competition for the 6th through 8th spots on the blueline, it’s a wonder that they gave Postma a second year with a substantial raise. It’s a contract that makes a lot of sense for Postma, and creates a lot of pain for the team.
The Bottom Line
As a team that struggled to put up wins in the weak Southeast division and couldn’t score on the powerplay, the return of Postma and addition of Adam Pardy seem to indicate another ‘rebuilding’ year, while Postma’s second year perhaps indicating two more years of status quo.
In my opinion, the Jets depth chart on the blue line goes (your mileage may vary, as they say):
- Enstrom – Byfuglien
- Trouba – Bogosian
- Clitsome – Stuart
- Pardy – Redmond
- Kulda – Postma
A two-year contract makes little sense to me, and I would have been more comfortable had the Jets flushed Postma, or signed him to a single year to give the coaches a chance to choose their top 7 or 8 from that group. Josh Morrissey is likely three years away from NHL duty, making the question of how this blue line gets better in the meantime an open one. This Paul Postma contract again suggests management is not looking to get better at this time at this position.