The expansion draft is upon us and for the Winnipeg Jets that could spell trouble in the area that matters most, goaltending.
The Vegas Golden Knights have said that they will bring in as many as seven netminders, the figure is more likely around four. When I started the senseless act of filling out an expansion list roster for the Knights I started with goaltending. The idea was to get the best mix of goalies knowing that at least one will be playing in Chicago next season. The Jets have protected Connor Hellebuyck leaving Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec exposed. If Knights GM George McPhee selects Hellebuyck then that puts the Jets in a bind which isn’t where we want to be when placing a futures play even after reviewing the Heritage Sports future numbers.
As they stand the Jets are not a Cup contender but it wouldn’t be summer without a hot rumour. The possible addition of Annti Raanta from the New York Rangers, who have declared their back-up to be on the market, qualifies. If that happens the playing field may change for some when considering a futures wager but it wouldn’t be enough to pull the trigger. Raanta still has much to prove considering he’s never been the number one goaltender other than his European numbers. Jacob Trouba could be the return piece to New York but, at this point, Trouba isn’t worth a goaltender that you’re crossing your fingers that he’ll be effective in the main role. If Raanta doesn’t find his way to Canada the Jets should seriously take a run at Philipp Grubauer who is younger and would cost Mark Chipman less than Raanta. There are others out there like Steve Mason who GM Kevin Cheveldayoff may look to if Raanta isn’t their guy.
So if the Knights don’t go after Hutchinson who else may they take?
The Jets are betting that George McPhee won’t take Toby Enstrom because of his age and contract. I’m not as worried about the age factor because at 32 he still has plenty of hockey left but it’s the contract that would give me a reason for concern unless McPhee needs to get to the cap floor. Enstrom is making $5.75 million which isn’t an ideal number to have on your books especially when the idea is to flip as many of the early players for draft picks later. I’m not sure what return you’d get for Enstrom after his deal ends in 2018, nor is he a guy that you would give a long term deal to at that price. I think Enstrom is safe and the Jets win their wager that allowed them to protect seven forwards and three defensemen.
Marko Dano is the more attractive option at 22 and is making far less than a million dollars. He is also a player that would be easier to flip if McPhee to ‘flip’ when his contract expires in 2018. His offensive consistency should be improved when his deal is done making him easier to move. He comes with grit and edginess which are qualities that Gerard Gallant cherishes.
For two seasons in a row, the key to winning a Stanley Cup is depth to go along with the ability to bring constant offensive pressure. The Pittsburgh Penguins have done that better than anyone which is why they have two rings in two years. Winnipeg is not close to being that type of team now so I think a futures play would be throwing money away.
The first line is in good shape with Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler as is line number two with Mathieu Perreault, Patrik Laine, and Bryan Little. Outside of that, it’s a waiting game to see the progression of Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry, and Joel Armia.
Too many questions to put serious money on the Jets.