Notwithstanding a few playoff runs by the first version of the Manitoba Moose back in the mid to late 00’s, May 20 is the latest the city of Winnipeg has ever seen pro hockey played.
In that respect it’s a bit funny for a general feeling of “this all ended too soon” but it’s that feeling of wanting more from this hockey club that has almost instantly turned many thoughts towards next season in high anticipation by everyone for what comes next.
Not to say that this latest playoff run won’t be savored by Jets fans for a while to come, but to many a member of the media, Jets player and fans alike, this past 52 win regular season and the playoff run that followed it feels more like a preview of things to come for the Jets. There is certainly more positivity around the team now than there was after the “how did they manage to even get this far” playoff toe dip of 2015.
Still, even with the confidence that this is just the beginning of something special for the Jets, there is an uncertainty of how exactly they’ll get there and stay there in the seasons to come.
Mark Scheifele – now, arguably a top five center in the NHL – is locked in and will remain one of the league’s best bargains with a cap hit just a shade over six million a season. Nik Ehlers is also in for the long haul and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
There is Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic and Kyle Connor … Laine and Connor established themselves as legit top six forwards and there is no reason to think Roslovic can’t do the same in a full campaign next season. Laine and Connor are also entering the last year of their entry level contracts and can sign new extensions as of July 1. Roslovic still has two years to go on his but if his season in 2018-19 goes anything like Connor’s did, he’ll be looking at a significant raise as well.
Then there are this summer’s restricted free agents and the list is a bit daunting. Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck, Tucker Poolman, Joel Armia, Marko Dano, Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry, Eric Comrie, Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey are all players who GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to have to sit down with and work out deals for, but more to the point, figure out what kind of future they all have with the Jets going forward.
Trouba and Hellebuyck for sure are cornerstones who should see big contracts offered to them. Josh Morrissey has proven himself to be a top four defenseman and will need to be paid like it. Adam Lowry falls just outside of that category, but there is no denying his worth as a bottom six checking forward. Petan, Armia, Dano, Tanev and Comrie will all be interesting to watch. All are well regarded within the Jets organization, but to varying degrees. With established players already ahead of them and up-and-coming prospects behind them (Sami Niku, Mason Appleton, Michael Spacek) does Chevy keep players like Petan or Dano around?
The amount of RFAs that the Jets are looking at can also make one question just what the status will be of some of the bigger contract veterans on the team going forward. Tyler Myers, Dmitri Kulikov, Mathieu Perreault and Bryan Little all have higher value deals of various lengths that could be seen as either cumbersome or flat out over-pays. Is it possible the Jets will look to trade one or two of those contracts this summer to make room for all the pending RFA deals?
Paul Stastny impressed everyone since his trade deadline arrival from St. Louis but can the Jets even afford to keep the pending unrestricted free agent? Do the Jets just let Michael Hutchinson walk away as a UFA? Has Tobias Enstrom – the third of the three biggest UFAs the Jets are looking at – played his last game as a Winnipeg Jet?
The Jets work on the ice for the 2017-18 season has concluded, but Kevin Cheveldayoff’s has just begun. As always, he and Jets management seem to be keeping their plans close to their vest but with the Jets making as much noise as they did the last two months, more than ever the eyes of the hockey world – and not just Jets observers alone – will be watching Chevy to see what in fact will come next.