Winnipeg Jets Free Agency: Part Two – Internal Options

The Winnipeg Jets are entering 2015’s free agency and they have some holes to fill.

While free agency is no longer a place you can build a team, it is still a location where smart General Managers can efficiently supplement their core, pushing the team to the next level.

The Jets currently have about 54 million assigned for 2015, and Mark Chipman estimates the Jets to be about a third-quartile team in spending. After making the playoffs last season for the first time since the franchise’s move to Canada, the Jets will be looking to contend for a second time.

Let’s take a look at some internal options the Jets have for filling up their roster.

In the last article of our series, we looked at what the Jets needs are.

We came to the conclusion that the Jets could use two middle-six wingers, a fourth-line centre, and a fourth-line winger.

The Jets have enough “NHL calibre” defenders, but they could use a top-four, left-shot… if they do not plan on moving one of Dustin Byfuglien or Jacob Trouba to their offside.

The Jets also need a league average starter, although this will have to come from Michael Hutchinson or Ondrej Pavelec with how the Jets are currently structured.

Forwards

Rookies:

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The Jets have some potential NHL rookies that could push for a roster position.

Nikolaj Ehlers is the Jets crowning jewel in their prospect depth charts. The winger paced 1.98 points per game in the QMJHL, which on average translates to a 0.52 point per game pace in the NHL. He shoots left but predominately plays on the right wing. Ehlers could very well be the missing top-six forward the Jets need.

Nic Petan also is another potential top-nine forward replacement. While Petan had his lowest NHLE of the past three years, he has still been a solid offensive player and has the hockey IQ to more than make up for his stature.

Joel Armia and Andrew Copp are two possible fourth-line options.

Joel Armia could be best described as Blake Wheeler-lite. Armia is a big body that skates exceptionally well for his size and likes to cut in while protecting the puck. He won’t be the most physical player but can add some skill to the fourth-line.

Andrew Copp might not be the highest scorer, but he is well regarded for his defensive acumen and the intangibles that coaches love to carry on the roster. While defensive play and defensive impact are often confused in hockey, Copp has been a strong performer in the NCAA for three seasons.

Returnees:

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The Jets have four former players that all could be potential pieces to fill current roster holes.

Jiri Tlusty struggled to score during his time as a Jet, but has a history of performing well enough as a top-six performer. The Jets have not closed the door on Tlusty, although there has not been much discussion between the two parties either.

Lee Stempniak was almost much the opposite of Tlusty. Stempniak scored well as a Jet relative to ice time, but historically hasn’t been as strong of a performer. Both though have been decent forwards in shot metrics, especially Stempniak. His GAR rating is slightly skewed due to having the only negative season of his career in 2013-14, which was a heavily negative one at that.

Alexander Burmistrov looks to make his return to the NHL, although it’s still not clear if the Jets plan to keep the young forward or trade him. Burmistrov has experience as both a centre and a winger. While how much he has developed in his time away remains unclear, his NHL equivalent estimated scoring in the last two seasons has been superior to any previous season of his. In addition, even as a 19 and 20-year-old, Burmistrov still pulled solid enough numbers as an above-average, middle-six forward option for a playoff team.

Halischuk is not as strong of a forward to be a mainstay in a team’s top-nine unit, but he does offer more overall than Peluso or Thorburn as a fourth line winger.

Defenders

Rookies:

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The only real potential threat at pushing for a NHL role is Joshua Morrissey. Morrissey’s scoring took a dip this year, but he did perform well as an all-minutes defender on one of the top teams in the CHL.

To make the team Josh Morrissey would likely have to clearly surpass Jay Harrison, Mark Stuart, Ben Chiarot, and Grant Clitsome. He would need to solidify a spot in the Jets top-four and force the Jets to move one or more of their other defenders out.