As summer holidays are beginning and the nation is celebrating Canada Day, an important part of the hockey calendar is just beginning. Free agent frenzy begins July 1 – noon eastern time to be exact – and it marks the day that old contracts expire and new ones can be signed.
It’s an exciting day for many players who get to choose where they sign, perhaps for the first time in their career. It’s also an important day for the general managers who are all hoping to sign the same crop of players while still fitting the rest of the team under the salary cap.
So what does this all mean for the Winnipeg Jets? Here’s a quick primer on who might go, who might stay, and what the Jets are looking for in the signing period of free agency.
In part two, which will follow in the coming days, we will outline a few specific players that the Jets might want to target.
The Winnipeg Jets originally had five players hitting unrestricted free agency this off-season, but now they have seven. The team decided not to tender a qualifying offer to Joe Morrow or Nathan Beaulieu which allowed them to become UFA’s as well. The other players include Par Lindholm, Brandon Tanev, Bogdan Kiselevich, Ben Chiarot, and Tyler Myers. Out of these players, Myers easily has the most value while Tanev and Chiarot come next. Morrow, Lindholm and Beaulieau should be able to generate a few offers, and Kiselevich it’s already been said is on his way back to Russia.
Will They Stay or Go?
The big question when it comes to free agency is whether or not the Jets will try to re-sign any of these players. In this case, a few items are beginning to clear up. First of all, Tyler Myers has all but signed with the Vancouver Canucks and that deal will be made official later on once the free agency window opens.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 1, 2019
Although Brandon Tanev was an important part of the bottom six over the past few years, it’s unlikely that he will stay. It’s not because the Jets don’t want him, but another team can probably out-bid Winnipeg similarly to Myers. Tanev has built a reputation of being a solid penalty killer and showing great hustle and there’s a good chance that another team will offer a better contract than Winnipeg can.
Phil Kessel is out in Pittsburgh. They have money now. Expect Brandon Tanev to be an option.
— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) June 30, 2019
While Myers and Tanev are likely to leave, Ben Chiarot is a strong candidate to stay because of his lengthy history with the team. He’s always had success playing alongside Byfuglien, so the Jets would like to keep him around as a capable depth defender. Chiarot’s value isn’t too high, so it’s unlikely that any team would offer an outrageous contract. The issue with the Jets however, is that they want to keep as much space as possible which makes it difficult to match any offer. Even if Chiarot wants to come back to Winnipeg, more money somewhere else is a strong incentive to leave.
As far as the rest of the players, they are all replaceable in free agency. If they are demanding too high of salary, the Jets might have to turn elsewhere to find a replacement. Beaulieu had a decent run near the end of the season, so the Jets might look to keep him around. Morrow has also been a depth player for the last couple of years, so if he can be signed for the right price, the Jets will retain him. Par Lindholm could be an option, but only if the Jets don’t have any real success with the free agent market and attracting players to Winnipeg.
What to Expect
As mentioned above, the Jets are probably going to lose a number of these players to other teams during free agent frenzy. There’s even a possibility that none of these players return to the club for next season. With Myers and Tanev being the most likely to leave, it creates a few holes in the roster that the Jets need to fix. Factor in the Trouba deal, and the Jets are without two of their top three right handed defensmen next year. This is one area that will need to be addressed via free agency.
While the Jets did acquire Pionk in the deal, they will need a few more defensmen on the roster. The real issue is that many of the defensmen they do have are near replacement level. Finding a legitimate second pairing defensmen to play behind Byfuglien would be a great addition to the roster.
The other area of weakness for the team is the second line centre position. While finding a new second line centre would be great, it doesn’t seem reasonable when looking at the cap issues for the team. All of the free agent candidates will want far more than the Jets would be able to give and therefore the team is likely out of the running to sign any significant pieces. The only option that remains is to try and find a diamond in the rough while adding some depth to the team.
To recap, the Jets will likely lose a few pieces in free agency. In return, they should look to add a second pairing right side defensemen along with some cheaper depth pieces to bolster the bottom six.