The drafts (both expansion and NHL entry) have come and gone, teams have started their development camps, and we’re just a few days away from Free Agent Frenzy! With that, I thought I’d go through the projected line up for 2017-2018 Winnipeg Jets as it stands now and perhaps a few free agents the Jets should go after.
The Top 6
If you’ve read my previous piece pondering how close the Jets are to Cup Contention, you’d know the top six should be left alone, coupled with my belief that continuity breeds success and the chances of any top six forward wanting to come here are slim to none.
You can argue the line match-ups from here to eternity, but I’d be willing to bet Mark Scheifele centers the number one line with Ehlers and Wheeler. The second line should consist of Little, Laine and Perreault. I think Laine could develop more with Little as his centerman. They had so much chemistry when Little returned from injury.
The Bottom six
This is where things get messy. So many prospects and so little room. This is the year where guys like Petan, Connor and Roslovic should be given the opportunity and could bloom into the potential that we all want to believe they have.
Third line projection
This is a very rough guess. Roslovic and Petan are natural centers, but neither of them are fourth line players either so picking one over the other to send down to fourth line duty is tough. Last year Connor spent time in the AHL with the Moose after coming back from an injury tallying 25 goals and 44 points in 52 games.
The fourth line
The Jets have a plethora of options at center as Mathias, Lowry and Copp fill this position nicely.
Let’s operate under the assumption that one of those three will start off the year injured and another will be wandering around aimlessly and Brendan Lemieux will not see the pros this year (which could be a mistake. He plays the agitator role quite well and for for what it’s worth had developed a bit of a scoring touch in the AHL.)
I’d be shocked if there was a free agent acquisition by the Jets to round up this group, however if there was a guy that may draw interest – and I know this is a name that’ll get a chuckle – Jack Skille might be worth looking at as a depth acquisition.
Skille has NHL experience and you know what you’re going to get with him. He’ll add the grit on that line that has been sorely needed. With this production and age, you can get him at a discount and likely at only a one year contract.
Trouba – Morrissey
Enstrom – Byfuglien
Postma – Myers
It is quite apparent this team is slowly going away from the days of Mark Stuart. Now, we’ve seen a lot of games last year with a lot of breakdowns, and this group needs to be better, it’s not like a lot of these guys are past their prime. Trouba and Morrissey have yet to reach their prime.
At the time of publication, there were rumors that Cheveldayoff is quite interested in Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner. I personally wouldn’t be opposed to adding him as a depth defenseman, but the guy that has my attention is Patrick Wiercioch. With a salary at just under a million last year, and with the cap rising even just a slight bit, it would be good value to have him around to replace Postma or in the case of Myers not being completely healthy.
The goaltending and defense need to improve if this team isn’t going to make a HUGE splash into free agency. The Jets have extended a qualifying offer to Hellebuyck, so clearly, they do intend on going further with him after he carried the majority of the load last year.
As I mentioned in my last piece, a goalie who put up similar numbers was Brian Elliott in Calgary. A journeyman who has been a starter wherever he’s been, Elliott is a very good stop gap for the future, however I’m not convinced you’ll see improvement with him. Given what is available though, and barring any miraculous trade, Elliott being signed by the Jets free agency seems like a given.
Looking at the lineups and seeing how similar they are to the previous years (again, notwithstanding a miraculous free agent signing) this demonstrates my point that there is really a couple pieces away from this team contending from being a contender.