The Winnipeg Jets' season was ended at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. The loss represented the end of a season of growth for the Winnipeg Jets and the start of major changes in the off-season. While the playoffs ended far too quickly for the team, they represented a step forward for both players and management. The Jets are now entering a period of change where the decisions made over the summer will shape the team for years to come.
The Winnipeg Jets acquired three forwards during the season to supplement a very thin group up front Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak were acquired for draft picks and suspect prospects while Drew Stafford was a acquired in the monster Evander Kane trade. All of these players were rental players who can walk on July first. Michael Frolik and Jim Slater are also in this group of players that can leave. If none of them stay than the Jets will potentially have five new faces up front to start next season.
The potentially departing forwards would leave a major mark on the thin depth of the Jets. While it would be nice to see Nic Petan, Scott Kosmachuk, Nikolaj Ehlers and other promising prospects, some of the players they are replacing are excellent at the tougher parts of playing in the NHL and the Jets have to have the proper depth to support any young player as they transition into the NHL. Cost of retention unconsidered the Jets should try to keep Stempniak, Frolik, and Tlusty as depth players, but if they are going to cost too much the Jets should move on and find other, cheaper options who can do the same job.
Unlike the forwards, the defence is fairly set going into next season unless Kevin Cheveldayoff decides he wants to upgrade the defence (which he should). There is also the elephant in the room, Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien is one of the Jets top defenceman, but he is getting up there in age and will demand big money next season. The Jets may want to explore the idea of re-signing him to figure out what his demands are and then decide on his future with the team based on that information. If the Jets elect to trade Byfuglien, they could use the return to build in some depth where the Jets lost it because of money that was tied to Byfuglien.
Trading Byfuglien would lead to massive changes on the Jets blueline, but it would not be the move that would make the Jets better short term. That move would be trading Mark Stuart. That would never happen unless all the flower Paul Maurice and Cheveldayoff have thrown at Stuart this past season are a ruse and they really just want teams to think he is the bees knees and would be an awesome addition to any team.
The Jets could add super-prospect Josh Morrissey onto the blueline next year, but they may want to plan on him starting in the AHL until they know he has had a smooth transition into professional hockey and is ready for the next stop.
According to Bob McKenzie there is nothing to see here, so just look away and keep on thinking that Ondrej Pavelec is the best ever because that will make it happen. I think.
There is no indication yet on how the Jets will look when they return in September. There is the promise that change will happen though because the Jets have too many bodies needing to be re-signed for there to not be change for the Jets. What the change is and what it will mean for the Jets next season is still yet to be seen.