With the preseason all but over, it’s nearly time for the Jets to trim down their roster to fit within the 23 man limit. We have already examined who will be in the opening day lineup as we looked for Armia’s replacement here, and Enstrom’s replacement here. If the lineup is virtually set, then what else could there be?
If you haven’t guessed by the title of the post, we are looking at the pressbox spots for the Jets.
The Jets have two clear options when deciding how to structure their roster this year. The first option is what they have chosen to do in years past, which includes having 14 forwards, 7 defense, and 2 goalies on the roster. The other option includes taking only 13 forwards which allows for 8 defense and 2 goalies.
Let’s break down each option to see how the pressbox options pan out.
14 Forwards, 7 Defense
Petan fans rejoice! If the Jets decide to keep 14 forwards on their roster it would seem that Petan will be headed to the pressbox instead of back to the Moose. While nothing is guaranteed, the signs are pointing to Vesalainen making the team out of preseason as he’s been deployed with other talented Jets players so far.
Tue., Sept. 25 Schedule
Bell MTS Iceplex
On-Ice – 12:00 p.m.
On-Ice – 12:30 p.m.
Today's groups are below. pic.twitter.com/9D68NnkbFs
— Winnipeg Jets PR (@WpgJetsPR) September 25, 2018
If Vesalainen makes the squad then the obvious choices for the pressbox are Petan and Dano.
Lemieux is a very tempting option to keep with the Jets but at 22 years old, he is likely to have another strong year with the Moose without hindering his development.
While the individual play of these players are important, perhaps the biggest factor in staying on the roster is the individual contracts. Both Petan and Dano would need to go through waivers if being sent down to the Moose and with a strong possibility that either player would get claimed, the Jets likely don’t want to risk losing one of their young forwards for nothing.
— Ross Thomas (@spidermanross) September 21, 2018
Unfortunately for Lemieux, this means that he is likely getting sent down because of his contract status rather than his hockey ability. The only way that Lemieux will stay with the Jets is if Vesalainen goes back to Finland (or the Moose) which would open up one more spot. It also appears that Appleton is out of the running to make the team. He was a longshot from the start and it appears he will be heading back to the Moose to build on an impressive rookie season.
With the Jets carrying 14 forwards that leaves room for only 7 defensmen. This might actually make the Jets decision easier as they would send down both Niku and Poolman because they are both waiver-exempt. The Jets would certainly lose Chiarot or Morrow if they tried to send one of them to the AHL, although some people say this wouldn’t be a bad idea to save cap space. While the idea is intriguing the Jets aren’t likely to try it which makes this a bad situation for Niku and Poolman because it would mean getting sent down almost exclusively due to their contract status.
13 Forwards, 8 Defense
The pressbox seats get a little more desirable if the Jets decide to carry only 13 forwards. If this is the case, the Jets will likely send Vesalainen to the Moose and use Dano and Petan, or they will keep Vesalainen and Dano and try to send Petan back down.
There really isn’t an option for Lemieux to stay on the roster if Jets only keep 13 forwards.
While the forward group might be unhappy with these organizational decisions, the defense will be ecstatic. If the Jets roll with 8 defense then they will be able to keep either Niku or Poolman with the team. If it’s Niku, he could easily find some playing time alongside Dustin Byfuglien on the second pair.
Monday's mid-afternoon #NHLJets poll:
Who should play next to Dustin Byfuglien on Winnipeg's blue line?
(limited to four selections, so respond with whoever else you think should)
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) September 24, 2018
If Niku makes the team then it’s Poolman who will get sent back down as he would be the only waiver-exempt player left. On the other hand, the Jets might decide to keep Poolman because of his dependability and physicality. This would mean Niku has to go back to the Moose after putting up great offensive numbers last season.
Out of the two players, it likely makes more sense to have Poolman go back to the AHL. Even though Poolman won’t learn much else from going back to the Moose again, the ceiling on Niku is too high to justify sending him down instead of Poolman.
If the Jets are serious about winning now, that means they should be serious about keeping the best roster out of camp. That roster includes Sami Niku.
— Nik (@NikLynam) September 25, 2018
The Jets have two options going into the season, do they want to keep an extra forward, or an extra defender? It could be argued that Vesalainen and Niku are the two most exciting prospects the Jets currently have, but is it possible to have both on the team with such limited spots?
I personally think that the Jets will send down Niku for the start of the year. The Jets like their veterans too much to try and send through waivers just to clear a spot for a rookie. This means the Jets will carry 14 forwards (Vesalainen, Petan, Dano) and 7 defense (Morrow, Chiarot) into the opening week of the regular season.