Some Free Agent Targets for the Jets

 

After Ben's fantastic "Who We Be" series, the next logical step is to review a few free agent targets that can address some of those needs.  These are a few players I think could fill those holes.  The salary listed is what they made last year.

 

Tough Minutes Center

The Jets have a decent scoring center in Bryan Little, but could really use someone to face the opposition's top line.

Michal Handzus - 34 years old, $4m

While Handzus is getting up in age, he is capable of handling a few tough assignments still.  Last season, he faced the second hardest competition among the Kings centers and only started 43.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone.  His Corsi, however, was -6.75 so he's far from outplaying his competition.  With Brooks Laich coming off the market, Handzus is the most polished player at this position.  He's played similar minutes for the last few seasons, so at the very least could be a stop-gap while guys like Patrice Cormier develop.

1st or 2nd Line Right Winger

Blake Wheeler is the only right winger the Jets currently have with the capability of being a Top 6 forward.  They could use one more to increase the goal output.

Scottie Upshall, 27 years old, $2.25m

Upshall's scoring rate is decent (1.82 pts/60) but what really impresses about his performance last season was his Corsi of 10.93 and Corsi Rel of 12.  Upshall was a possession demon while playing middle-of-the-pack icetime.  In Phoenix, he was given a more favourable zone start ratio and his scoring rate showed it.  Upshall is in prime years and could be a solid 2nd line winger for the Jets.

Depth/Defensive Winger

A veteran player who is used to providing depth and a defensive presence could free players like Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and even Andrew Ladd to play more offensive roles.

Joel Ward, 30 years old, $1.5m

No, we're not recommending Ward just because he racked up 13 points in 12 games in this year's playoffs.  Ward's real value comes as a defensive contributor.  Ward actually had the 3rd highest Heavy Lifter Index score in 2009-10.  Last season he faced the toughest comp of any RW on Nashville while only starting 39.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone.  Despite being thrown to the Wolves, he actually came out positive possession-wise with a Corsi of 1.23 and Corsi Rel of 4.4.

Despite not being much of a scorer, Ward has played the tough minutes for the past three years, showing he has the talent to do so.  He could be a steal for the Jets, allowing others to play more offensive minutes.

Conclusions

Both Upshall and Ward could provide incredible value for the Jets, helping to round out the depth needed at wing if they're to make a push for the playoffs.  Handzus is not an ideal signing, but could provide value for 1 or 2 years.  If he was brought in, Burmistrov could be turned loose against 3rd lines, giving him a chance to develop at a more manageable pace.

Winnipeg currently has over $28m in cap space (according to CapGeek.com), and should still have at least $16m in space after locking up Ladd, Wheeler and Bogosian.  If they really want to make a push for the playoffs, they're going to need a few gaps covered with quality players.

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