Look, I get it. We’ve just flipped the calendar over to September and while the 2015-16 NHL season is starting to loom on the horizon, many aren’t into quite into it yet. Baseball is into it’s pennant races, football both pro and college is starting up south-of-the-border while football here is just past the mid-way point.
No one is really thinking that much about hockey as evidenced by the lack of response to our call out for questions to Air Mail.
But the quest to answer questions on a weekly basis will not let this minor detail stand which is why after entering in the phrase: “Common Winnipeg Jets Questions” into the Google machine, I’ll answer three questions I came across that were asked in April…
More to the point, I’ll look into the three questions James Mirtle of The Globe And Mail (and friend of hockey bloggers everywhere) asked back in April just after the Jets suffered their four game sweep at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks:
What do they do in goal?
Each of the last three summers there has been a clamoring for the Jets to move on from Ondrej Pavelec be it via a trade or a buyout and each fall the Jets go into camp with Pavs all but set as the number one guy. The difference going into camp this year is that Pavelec at least has some decent numbers from the previous season (even if they were boosted by three straight shutouts to end the regular season) to at least support such a claim.
But there was a hope be it ever so slight that the Jets would “sell high” on Pavelec and move forward with either a combination of Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck (who if you remember had a fantastic showing at the World Championships) or bring in a free agent to pair up with Hutch while Hellebuyck honed his craft in the AHL for a year.
The Jets however didn’t make a move at all which pretty much convinced me that if they didn’t move Pavelec now, they might not ever. If anything, the Jets – depending on how the season goes of course – may end up trading Hutchinson instead. That’s my gut feeling anyway.
Hellebuyck will still have a year left on his entry level contract come 2016-17 and I get the sense that he rates higher on the “potential” level for the front office. Also, the return the Jets would get for Hutch at the trade deadline for example, would likely be greater than what they would get for Pavs.
Unless something very dramatic happens (like a consistent sub .900 save percentage) Pavelec is likely your Winnipeg Jets starting goalie for the next two years with Hutch backing up this year and Hellebuyck next.
As for Eric Comrie? He’ll likely play one more year in junior, then follow that up with the Moose the season after that. Beyond 2016-17 is anyone’s guess but I doubt the Jets are in a rush to move him along any quicker than that.
Who stays and who goes on the blueline?
Changes are coming, that we can say for certain. The Jets have five current roster players signed to contracts that go beyond this upcoming season (Myers, Stuart, Enstrom, Postma & Chariot), a sixth who is an RFA (Trouba) and don’t forget about Josh Morrissey who will probably factor into lineup consideration come 2016-17.
Before the summer if you asked most fans, they would have said Dustin Byfuglien was the odd-man out and likely to be traded away, but to me the Mark Giordano deal has changed things.
Where we might have expected Dustin to be looking for a contract in the seven to eight million per year range, Giordano’s 6.75 million AVV deal might keep Buff at the 6.5 to 7.5 range which is a bit more equitable for the Jets to handle. When you also consider what kind of impact Byfuglien has on this team it starts becoming even more obvious that the answer isn’t to trade Buff.
Meanwhile, Tobias Enstrom is a steady and reliable enough defenseman and beyond this season he still has two more seasons left on his very reasonable contract with a cap hit of 5.75 million. Those factors should mean he would fetch a decent return around trade deadline or draft day.
If I had to guess, I’d say Myers, Stuart, Chariot, Trouba and Postma aren’t going anywhere. The Jets will likely try to hammer out a deal with Bufuglien (the kind of start Buff has this season will also determine if this is easier said than done for the Jets) and then move Enstrom to another team.
How ready are the kids to contribute?
Nik Ehlers is clearly the one kid everyone – including Ehlers himself – fully expects to be in the opening day lineup for the Jets. Andrew Copp barring a horrible camp should be on the Jets main roster come October 8th as well.
How much they’ll contribute this season is a big question.
Ehlers and Copp aren’t being brought in to fill top-six forward roles, nor should they expected to be as such. There is a chance Ehlers can see the odd bit of 2nd line and power play duty if things go spectacularly well for him, but don’t bank on it.
Copp’s potential to be a solid two-way player lends itself to a 4th line role with the odd bit of 3rd line time mixed in which would suit the Jets fine.
As for the likes of Nic Petan, Chase De Leo or Joel Armia? It may not matter how ready to contribute they are or aren’t. There isn’t much roster space to fit a kid or two into the lineup and with that in mind, the Winnipeg Jets aren’t likely to rush them into anything especially with the AHL team in the same city so that development can be closely monitored.