Kevin Cheveldayoff is bracing for a busy summer.
The Winnipeg Jets general manager is faced with trying to sign nine potential unrestricted free agents — including forwards Michael Frolik and Drew Stafford.
“I like the group in there and if we can keep as much of it together as we can, that’s good,” Cheveldayoff told The Canadian Press.
Frolik, who had a cap hit of $3.3 million this year, is coming off his best season with the Jets where he scored 19 goals and added 23 assists. Stafford, who was acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Evander Kane to Buffalo, had 19 points in 26 games with the Jets. Forwards Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak are also pending UFAs.
While keeping some of the current Jets together, here are five top unrestricted free agents Cheveldayoff could target come July 1.
5. Jarret Stoll
2014/15 cap hit: $3.25 million
Analysis: The Jets need help down the middle and the two-time Stanley Cup champion could come at a bargain price this summer. Many teams may shy away from signing Stoll, who recently ran into problems with the law. As one of the most penalized teams in the league, the Jets could use Stoll on the penalty kill as well. Stoll had six goals and 17 points in 73 games this season.
4. Antoine Vermette
2014/15 cap hit: $3.75 million
Analysis: Much like Stoll, Vermette could bring more depth at centre for the Jets. Vermette led the Arizona Coyotes in scoring with 35 points before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks at the deadline. He is purely a rental player for Chicago, which is tight against the cap. That means Vermette, who finished with 13 goals and 38 points this season, will be a hot commodity come July 1.
3. Justin Williams
Position: Right Wing
2014/15 cap hit: $3.05 million
Analysis: The Jets could potentially lose two right wingers — Stafford and Frolik — to free agency. What better way to replace either one of them with another Cup champ? Williams, who scored 18 goals this season, has made it clear he’d like to stay in Los Angeles. But the Jets have cap flexibility, especially if Stafford and Frolik walk.
2. Martin St. Louis
Position: Right Wing
2014/15 cap hit: $5 million
Analysis: I know what you’re thinking: Martin St. Louis is old and washed up and wouldn’t fit well with a younger Jets club. But, in fact, he would fit just fine. St. Louis has a lot of miles left in the tank and he’s proven he can score 20-plus goals even at his age. As a second-line right winger with the Jets, St. Louis could bring more scoring depth and take some heat off the top unit. This all at a bargain price, of course.
1. Cody Franson
2014/15 cap hit: $3.3 million
Analysis: The Nashville Predators defenceman will be looking for a multi-year deal for big bucks, but that shouldn’t scare away the Jets. Franson had a big year offensively with seven goals and 36 points — 17 of which came on the power play. Imagine him on the Jets’ second pairing with Tyler Myers or on the first power-play unit on the point with Dustin Byfuglien. Scary thought, isn’t it?