The Jets UFAs. Staying Or Leaving?

No matter how successful or disastrous a season goes, change is in the air. Such is life in pro sports these days, especially in the NHL. The salary cap plays a large role in teams decisions on who they keep and who they let walk. The Winnipeg Jets are no exception. With 9 players slated to hit the market on July 1, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has some difficult decisions ahead. Here’s a look at the nine who are set to be free.

Michael Frolik

Arguably the best player on the Jets roster to test the free agent waters. The versatile forward had a fine season with the Jets, tallying 19 goals, 23 assists, a 55.15% corsi and a 53.95% fenwick. Frolik is also durable as he was one of three Jets to appear in all 82 games.

The issue here is what will Frolik and his agent Allan Walsh demand. The native of Kladno, Czech Republic made $3.3 million last season, after avoiding arbitration last summer. Frolik was a restricted free agent last summer. 

The key man could be Walsh. It’s no secret that the agent is a tough negotiator and he will do just about anything to get the best possible deal for his player. Walsh and the Jets clashed in 2012 when goalie Ondrej Pavelec was due for a new contract. After Pavelec signed a five-year, $19.5 million deal, news came out he was involved in a car accident two months earlier. Pavelec was charged and later convicted on a DUI. 

Frolik could ask for $5 million over 4 years but if he lowers that to the $4-4.5 million range, the Jets could re-sign him. Then again, the Jets may let him walk so they have one less Allan Walsh player to deal with. The Jets can’t worry about an agent. Frolik brings too much to the table. He can be used in various situations including the power play and penalty kill. It would be a shame if he walks but it is possible he leaves.

Drew Stafford

Acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Evander Kane to Buffalo back on February 11, Stafford did enjoy success initially, but had an awful playoff series against Anaheim. His goal-scoring numbers aren’t bad, 9 goals and 10 assists in 26 games for the Jets. Even his corsi during that stretch was decent (50.22%). But the playoffs were a different story. I explained it earlier so here’s the link in case you need it.

Stafford does have some skill. He’s a decent skater, possesses a good shot and has a nose for the net. But there are factors that hurt him as well. 

Stafford made $4 million last season and could fetch more on the open market from a team that needs secondary scoring. That being said, Stafford did enjoy his time in Winnipeg and he could accept less to stay. 

It may come down to choices. It is unlikely that both Stafford and Frolik will both re-sign. If one stays the other one is gone. The choice is yours Mr. Cheveldayoff.

Lee Stempniak

Last summer, Stempniak chose the New York Rangers over the Jets as a free agent. Ironically, the Jets acquired Stempniak at the trade deadline for Carl Klingberg. Making a mere $900,000 last season, Stempniak is a bargain in today’s NHL. The West Seneca, New York native recorded 6 goals and 4 assists in 18 games with the Jets. He had a good corsi (52.59%) but just an average fenwick (49.45%) during his Jets tenure. They are small sample sizes so take those for what it’s worth.

Stempniak spent time on both the third and fourth lines and was a valuable contributor who provided some depth on the bottom six. He also provided a memorable moment in the playoffs, scoring the first NHL postseason goal in Winnipeg since 1996. 

The Jets should try to keep Stempniak as long as he doesn’t ask for too much money or term. A 2-year deal that pays no more than $2 million per annum would be ideal.

Jiri Tlusty

Another deadline deal acquisition. Tlusty came over from the Carolina Hurricanes for a third round pick in 2016 and a fifth round pick in 2015. Tlusty was reunited with Frolik and Pavelec as the trio were childhood friends in Kladno. In 18 games, Tlusty had 1 goal, 5 assists, a 52.33% corsi and a 51.41% fenwick. 

While he didn’t hurt the Jets, there are prospects coming up that could replace him. (Nikolaj Ehlers is a possibility) Plus, the aforementioned Allan Walsh is his agent. Don’t expect Tlusty to be back next season.

Adam Pardy

The only defenceman that is a UFA on the Jets roster. The native of Bonavista, Newfoundland is not an offensive threat, despite being the innovator of the “Pardy dangle.” Pardy is useful in the penalty kill role and was needed when the Jets suffered a rash of injuries on the blue line in December. 

The contract is affordable as Pardy made $700,000 last season The question is will Josh Morrissey take the next step in his career? If Morrissey can go from junior to the NHL, it may spell the end of Pardy’s time in Winnipeg. It is also possible that another team may pursue Pardy as veteran depth. We say odds are 50/50 he returns.

Jim Slater

The longest serving member of the Jets/Thrashers franchise, Slater is the only player left on the Jets that was on the lone Thrashers playoff team in 2006-07. 

Slater appeared in all 82 games last season, recording 5 goals and 8 assists as well as being the fourth line centre. Slater’s biggest strength in in the face-off circle as he won 59.27% of the draws. But is that worth $1.6 million per year?

That’s how much Slater was paid last season and at 32 years of age, how much does Slater have left in the tank? With Andrew Copp ready to make the jump to the show, Slater may have played his last game as a Jet.

Eric O’Dell

A group four UFA, O’Dell spent most of last season with St. John’s. While making only $650,000 on a two-way deal, one wonders if the Jets actually believe that O’Dell can be a full-time NHLer. He is decent and cheap but the feeling is the Jets let him pursue the open market.

Matt Halischuk

Another inexpensive forward, Halischuk’s cap hit was $725,000. The question is durability. Halischuk has missed 71 games over the past two seasons due to various injuries. When in the lineup, Halischuk provides some depth and can kill penalties in a pinch. But with health being a concern as well as prospects coming up, the Jets might part ways with Halischuk.

TJ Galiardi

The Calgary native came over as an unrestricted free agent last summer but had a difficult time staying on the roster. Galiardi appeared in only 38 games last season and was a healthy scratch most of the time. Pretty much guaranteed that Galiardi won’t be back next season.

Salaries courtesy nhlnumbers.com

Corsi/Fenwick numbers courtesy war-on-ice.com