It wasn't that long ago (one week, actually) that the Winnipeg Jets lost to the New York Islanders and seemed destined to finish on the outside of the playoff cutoff line. Things were looking bleak, what with a road game (where they had struggled all season) against the Minnesota Wild followed by a back-to-back game (where they hadn't won a single game all season in this situation) at home the next night against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins on the docket. A funny thing happened though - the Jets won both games and scored lots of goals, too. With this new found confidence and goal scoring ability, the Jets then shredded the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 on Sunday and then earned a point in a disappointing 5-4 OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers last night. The seven points earned out of a possible eight has vaulted the team right back into the thick of the race. The Jets are now currently tied with both the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division and for 3rd in the East, as well as tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 8th spot in the conference, though each team has multiple games in hand.
One thing that hasn't changed, though, are the contract statuses of some of our best surprises this season. According to Capgeek.com, the Jets have eight UFA and three RFA contracts that expire this summer, and some important names are on that list. Confusing the matter is the report that as of last Friday, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had not begun negotiations with any of his soon-to-be free agents. Wellwood, Slater, Glass, Stapleton, Oduya, Jones, Flood and Mason are the guys that could simply walk away from the club for nothing on July 1st, and this complicates matters heading into the Trade Deadline next Monday afternoon.
With only two more home games before Monday's final buzzer for trades, it is safe to assume that the results of these games will have an impact on what Chevy does. With the team in contention for a playoff spot, I suppose it is good for the players to not have to worry about their contracts and instead focus on the task at hand and play some good hockey. I do however find it worrisome that no contact has been made with these eight guys, as knowing what they wanted would likely help make future decisions easier.
So I present this list of questions to the loyal AIH followers. Does Chevy sell any of his UFA's for prospects and draft picks instead of letting them walk away for nothing this summer? Or do we ride the horses that got us here and let the chips fall where they may in the offseason? After the jump, I look at the eight UFA's and their current value to both the Jets and to potentially other teams.
#29 / Defenseman / Winnipeg Jets
Oct 01, 1981
$3,500,000 Cap Hit
|2011 - Johnny Oduya||2||11||13||-9||33|
Johnny has been a good soldier for the Jets this year. Despite giving up some "free pizzas" early on in the season, he has turned into one of the more solid defenders on the team (last night notwithstanding). He plays over 2 minutes per game on the PK and can provide some offense when needed. Oduya was a part of the infamous Kovalchuk deal at the 2010 Trade Deadline, and if he leaves then we will only have Patrice Cormier to show for that deal...
Having said that, it certainly looks like Oduya has settled into a spot somewhere on the 3rd pairing here in Winnipeg, as Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey all appear to be higher on the depth chart. Also, it appears that this trade deadline could be a Sellers market for defenders as Niklas Grossman, Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill were all traded for packages that included a 2nd round pick. With Chicago GM Stan Bowman in town the other day to scout our d-men, rumors abound that Oduya was one of the guys he was looking at and I read somewhere that Chevy may covet Chicago prospect Jimmy Hayes (who looked great last night for the Hawks).
So Jets fans. Would you trade Oduya for a package that involved a 2nd round pick or a prospect like Jimmy Hayes? We do have Randy Jones and Mark Flood available to fill in if need be. Or do we take the chance and try to re-sign him to a more cap-friendly deal in the summer? Or will all rival GM`s look at the game footage of last nights game and laugh at Chevy when he offers Oduya to them?
#13 / Center / Winnipeg Jets
May 16, 1983
$700,000 Cap Hit
|2011 - Kyle Wellwood||12||24||36||4||4|
What a fantastic signing this was, as Wellwood has been an incredible addition to the team. Welly has bounced around the lineup and produced at every spot, and now appears to have found a home on the 2nd line alongside Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov. Make all the fat jokes you like Toronto fans, but you cannot deny the success that he's had here this year in Winnipeg.
It remains to be seen what kind of interest there will be in Wellwood, as he has performed well in the playoffs for both the Canucks and the Sharks in recent years. However, he was also out of an NHL job to begin last season and was in Russia before San Jose came calling. His numbers are too good to ignore though.
Do we move Wellwood for whatever we can get for him? To turn a $700k gamble into a draft pick or prospect would be nice, but I'd rather re-sign him if we can. Will Wellwood want to stay though?
#19 / Center / Winnipeg Jets
Dec 09, 1982
$1,000,000 Cap Hit
|2011 - Jim Slater||8||5||13||-10||33|
Jim Slater has become a fan favorite in Winnipeg already, as he is the center of the 'GST' line that has generated many chants around the MTS Centre. Who knew that Canadians would cheer for a tax? Slater is probably our best faceoff man, and also sees over 2 minutes per game on the PK. His value to the team in a shutdown role is very high, but he can also pop in the odd goal as well. He apparently loves Winnipeg too, as he's been doing lots of stuff in the community.
I'd love to see him re-signed, but his faceoff and PK abilities may be coveted as well. However, if Dominic Moore can be moved for a 2nd round pick, what would Slater be worth?
#15 / Left Wing / Winnipeg Jets
Nov 29, 1983
$750,000 Cap Hit
|2011 - Tanner Glass||4||9||13||-11||50|
Along with Slater and Chris Thorburn, Glass has also been a part of the successful 'GST' line and has been a tremendous addition to the team. He is tough, he can add some offense and also kill penalties. What he also has is some playoff experience, as he got to within a win of the Stanley Cup last year with the Canucks. Glass is the type of complimentary piece that helps teams win the Cup.
Having said that, some other teams might look at Glass and think the same thing. Is it worth breaking up the 'GST' line for a prospect or a pick? Having said that, both Slater and Glass are UFA, so what guarantee do we have that they'd return?
#50 / Goalie / Winnipeg Jets
Apr 20, 1976
$1,850,000 Cap Hit
|2011 - Chris Mason||16||783||7||6||30||2.30||334||304||.910||2|
Stone Mason. Iron Mason. Whatever you call him, Chris Mason has done an unreal job in backing up Ondrej Pavelec this year. Many articles have been written in town here about how much Mason loves it here in Winnipeg, and how well the two netminders get along. Mason is apparently awesome in the room too, and what about his unreal new goalie equipment? If I had to pick one player that has embraced Winnipeg the most, Mason might get my vote.
However, he is also a 35-year-old backup, which means that any deal coming up would be of the 35+ variety. He could provide some quality insurance for a contending team if their starter goes down, but he can do the same here in Winnipeg. Do we move a guy like Mason for some futures and let some of our younger goalies on the farm come up?
#12 / Defenseman / Winnipeg Jets
Jul 23, 1981
G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Randy Jones
Randy Jones has spent a lot of time in the press box this season, but in the 25 games that he has gotten into he has done a pretty decent job. He's averaged 1:30 on the PK on the season, and his 0 +/- shows that he can be dependable in his own zone.
Jones might not be able to fetch much in a move, but is he a part of the long term plan here? With Paul Postma, Arturs Kulda and maybe even Zach Redmond down in St. John's perhaps close to making the big team, does Jones have a future here? Is a 6th rounder or something in that ballpark worth it?
#36 / Defenseman / Winnipeg Jets
Sep 29, 1984
$525,000 Cap Hit
G A P +/- PIM
2011 - Mark Flood
Flood has also spent a bunch of time in the press box of late, but in the 28 games that he dressed for I was pleasantly surprised with game. Noel had him on both the PP and the PK, and at the league minimum you can't ask for anything more then what we got out of Flood.
I don't know if Flood would have any value for a trade anyways, and from what I've heard he's been told to find a house in Winnipeg despite his UFA status. Perhaps he's a part of the long-term plan, but if we could get a pick for him should we?
So there are our eight UFA's. The three RFA's we have are Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec and Eric Fehr, but since we own their rights I am not worrying about them quite yet. I am not sure that Chevy can move any of our UFA's with us in the hunt here, but I am not sure we we can take the chance and let eight solid contributors to our team potentially walk away for nothing either.
Stay tuned for a round-table discussion from the crew here at AIH with our opinions as to what the Jets should do on the deadline, but until then I leave it open to you. What should Chevy do in the days leading up to next Monday? Are any of these players destined to fly out of town? Who should go? Who should stay? Shouldn't Chevy have discussed extensions with their agents already? Tell us what you think!