The Winnipeg Jets' Off-Season Calendar
In order to figure out when to expect some more Winnipeg Jets news, I decided to look at what their off-season calendar looks like.
With both the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose out of their respective playoffs, there won't be any hockey related news this month.
However, some of the Jets player's have headed over to Finland to play in the World Hockey Championships (May 13th to 29th). Forwards Pierre Luc Dubois and Adam Lowry have joined Team Canada, Nikolaj Ehlers with Denmark, Nate Schmidt playing for Team US, and Leon Gawanke will be joining Germany for their next game.
Add Claude Julien to the list of coaches I don't want Winnipeg to hire, as he is currently playing Lowry as the 2nd line center, over Matthew Barzal. Although, both Lowry & PLD are scoring very well, with 5 pts and 6 pts respectively in the 4 games played so far. With 4 games played, Ehlers has picked up 4 pts for the Danes, while Schmidt has 3 helpers for the US.
Since Jets' ownership has decided to extend Kevin Cheveldayoff for another 3 years as General Manager, it is now up to him to determine who will be the next head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. This process has started already, with word coming out that Barry Trotz has already had an interview with Jets management. Many other options have been noted including Scott Arniel, James Patrick, Pascal Vincent, Randy Carlyle, Peter DeBoer, and the previously mentioned Julien. I'm guessing that Chevy will want to have someone in place prior to the NHL Entry Draft, so we may have an answer by early July, if not sooner.
One of the quieter months of the off-season, the only NHL-related event will be when they hand out the awards for the past season. Although the date has not been set yet, it should occur sometime around June 15th. The only Winnipeg Jet that is up for consideration is Kyle Connor and with only 4 PIMs & impressive offensive numbers, he should have a good shot at becoming the first ever Jet to win the Lady Byng.
Before we move on to the next month, let's take a look at who the Winnipeg Jets have signed for next season:
Forwards: (7 of 13) Scheifele, Wheeler, Connor, Ehlers, Perfetti, Lowry, & Toninato.
Defense: (6 of 7) Morrissey, Pionk, Dillon, DeMelo, Schmidt, & Stanley.
Goalies: (1 of 2) Hellebuyck.
That leaves $18,046,310 in cap space to play with and many RFAs/younger prospects to pick from:
Forwards: Dubois, Svechnikov, Harkins, Appleton, Gustafsson, Barron, & Vesalainen.
Defense: Samberg, Heinola, & Kovacevic.
With 8 open spots, you see that 6 of them (5 forwards/1 defense) could be filled with contracts in the $1 M range, that would leave Winnipeg just over $12 M to re-sign Dubois and a back up goalie (Comrie?). Should Chevy want to keep Stastny, then he could go with 4 inexpensive forwards/1 defense and still have $13 M to try to keep Dubois/Stasny/Comrie.
Of course, he could free up more cap space by trading some excess d-men or other bigger moves, but we'll get into that a bit later.
Things start to happen in July and the first thing up is the buy-out period going from July 1st to 12th. Really only Blake Wheeler is a buy-out option for Winnipeg, but I have my doubts that Chevy will make that move. If the Jets do buy-out Wheeler's contract, then they will save a bit more than $4 M this year, save $5.79 M next season, but then have a $2.458 M cap hit for the 2024-25 & 2025-26 seasons.
However, if the Jets don't make the move during that period, it doesn't mean that it won't happen. Should an NHL team have more than one arbitration case, they will have a second buy-out window in late August. Since Winnipeg has 7 RFAs that are arbitration-eligible, it seems possible that they will meet that criteria.
Speaking of arbitration, if Winnipeg wanted to file for a club-elected meeting on any of their qualifying players, they would have to file by July 2nd (though they have a second window on the last day). Players have until the final day, July 17th, to file for arbitration. The arbitration hearings are set to start on July 27th and go until early August.
Here is a list of the Winnipeg Jets' arbitration-eligible RFAs:
Pierre Luc Dubois - C (2 seasons from UFA)
Mason Appleton - RW (1 season from UFA)
Evgeny Svechnikov - LW/RW (1 season from UFA)
Jansen Harkins - LW/C (2 seasons from UFA)
Jeff Malott - LW/RW (1 season from UFA)
Johnny Kovacevic - RD (1 season from UFA) **if he plays 76 NHL games next year, then 2 seasons from UFA**
Philippe Desrosiers - G (1 season from UFA)
Can't say that I'm exactly sure how many of these deals will go to an actual arbitration hearing. The only one that should be expecting a big raise is Pierre Luc Dubois and it's possible that the Jets allow his contract negotiations to go down this road since a one year contract would result in him being an RFA again next off-season. Obviously, Winnipeg will be wanting to get a much longer deal done, but arbitration does give them another option besides trading PLD if he doesn't want to ink for multiple years this summer. I expect all of the players except Desrosiers to be re-signed eventually, though it seems the Jets blew a chance to get Kovacevic in more NHL games this year and make it easier to potentially delay his UFA status.
Next up is the NHL Entry Draft, which will be held in Montreal on July 7th and 8th. Winnipeg currently holds the 14th overall pick and may add another 1st round selection if the NY Rangers can manage to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite only having 3 of their original draft picks, the Winnipeg Jets could have up to 7 selections in the draft.
1st round: Winnipeg Jets (14th overall) & New York Rangers (30th overall) *thanks Copp*
2nd round: St. Louis Blues (approx 55th pick - Jets could defer and get Rangers 2nd round pick in 2023).
3rd round: Columbus Blue Jackets (approx 76th pick)
4th round: Arizona Coyotes (approx 99th pick)
6th round: Winnipeg Jets (approx 174th pick)
7th round: Winnipeg Jets (approx 206th pick)
Besides having the ability to draft new players for their prospect pools, NHL teams also use the draft to start the trading process. Should the Jets' braintrust feel it's time to move on from someone like Mark Scheifele, then it might occur at a time when a draft pick can instantly be turned into a drafted player. Once again, I'm not really sure what Winnipeg will do with #55. Yes, if you follow the common thinking that whoever gets the best player in a trade wins it, then the Jets will likely "lose" any trade they make. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't make it. Unless you want to pay Scheifele BIG money in 2 years (assuming he's willing to forego unrestricted free agency which is far from guaranteed), then you really have to trade him sometime. You just cannot let an elite player walk away for nothing. Yep, Scheifele could have a statistical break out season next year with the Jets under a new coach. Absolutely. But with so many people talking about a bad dynamic in Winnipeg's dressing room revolving around him and Wheeler (going back to 2018-19), I just can't see it being a great idea to bring them both back next year.
If the Winnipeg Jets want to make a qualifying offer on any of their 11 RFAs, then it has to be done by July 11th. The offer has to be for a one-year deal of a prescribed amount. The amount is at least the current year’s salary (not cap hit or AAV) and for lower paid players, it includes a set raise in salary. When a team does not issue a QO, the RFA becomes a UFA when free agency opens.
If a team does issue a QO, the player can simply accept it — not uncommon for players one year out from arbitration. The QOs expire on July 22nd, at which time the player remains an RFA if they haven’t signed, and the only difference is they have to actually negotiate a contract rather than just accepting the QO.
Besides the 7 arbitration-eligible RFAs listed previously, the Jets also have these 4 RFA players to consider:
David Gustafsson - C (1 season from Arbitration)
Kristian Vesalainen - W (1 season from Arbitration)
Leon Gawanke - RD (1 season from Arbitration)
Markus Phillips - LD (1 season from Arbitration)
Chevy shouldn't have too much difficulty coming to terms with the above noted players. Gustafsson is probably the only one that has a shot at breaking into Winnipeg's starting day line up. Will the Jets give Vesalainen a full year in the AHL to figure out his game or try to move him to a team that believes in his potential? Despite a solid year in the AHL, Gawanke probably doesn't have a real shot at a RHD spot with Winnipeg, with players like Pionk, Schmidt, DeMelo, and Kovacevic in front of him.
Free agency opens up on July 13th at noon and the deadline for teams to extend eligible FA players to eight-year deals is midnight on July 12th. That day is also the start of the one-day RFA discussion period where they can accept offer sheets and discuss contracts with other teams as well as their own.
Here is a list of the Winnipeg Jets' unrestricted free agents:
Paul Stastny - C/LW - 36 yrs old
Zachary Sanford - LW/RW - 27 yrs old
Eric Comrie - G - 27 yrs old
Adam Brooks - C - 27 yrs old
Luke Johnson - C/RW - 27 yrs old
Austin Poganski - RW - 26 yrs old
CJ Suess - LW/C - 28 yrs old
On the list above, really only 3 of them could make an impact with the Winnipeg Jets next season. Despite his age, Paul Stastny's play this year, his ability to play center & wing, as well as lining up in the top or bottom 6, and his leadership qualities could make bringing him back one of Chevy's priorities. Eric Comrie certainly played very well in the limited minutes the Jets' coaching staff allowed him. The apparent lack of confidence in his abilities and the possibility that he gets an offer higher than Winnipeg is willing to play, suggests that Comrie might be suiting up elsewhere next year. If so, I'll go on record as saying that I don't think Mikhail Berdin is ready for a NHL back up role yet. Lastly, if Chevy's plan for the off-season involves moving a couple of the forwards on our current roster, then he really might try to re-sign Zach Sanford to a contract in the $2 to $3 M range to play a bottom 6 role.
For offer sheets, here is this season's compensation tiers:
- Up to $1.38649 M = no compensation
- From $1.3865 to $2.100742 M = one 3rd
- From $2.100744 to $4.201488 M = one 2nd
- From $4.201489 to $6.30223 M = one 1st and one 3rd
- From $6.30224 to $8.402975 M = one 1st, one 2nd and one 3rd
- From $8.402975 to $10.50372 M = two 1sts, one 2nd and one 3rd
- Any amount over $10.50372 M = four 1sts
Due to the rules requiring NHL teams to have their own draft picks in each round, Winnipeg could only make offers in 4 of the 7 tiers. They do have a coveted RFA in Pierre Luc Dubois that other teams may consider making an offer on. There are only 15 NHL teams that could make a qualifying offer in the $6.30224 to $10.50372 M range, which is where I would expect PLD's next contract to fall (the Montreal Canadiens are one of them). Despite not having a ton of cap space ($18 M), I'm fairly certain that the Jets would be able to match any offers that did come up. And Dubois is far from the only talented RFA available, with forwards like Matthew Tkachuk, Patrick Laine, Jason Robertson, Josh Norris, Jesper Bratt, Andrew Mangiapane, Brock Boeser, & Adrian Kempe up for a potential offer.
I'm not sure how much of a player the Winnipeg Jets will be in free agency this season, as the available cap space will largely be eaten up by signing their own free agents. Unless Chevy makes moves involving players like Wheeler or Scheifele, it's unlikely that Winnipeg would be in the running for some of the more appealing younger UFAs (Filip Forsberg/Vincent Trocheck/Andre Burakovsky/Johnny Gaudreau).
Although, with Brendan Dillon showing that he was capable of playing on his off-side in the latter parts of the season , the Jets could create around $7 M in cap space by trading Dylan DeMelo and Nate Schmidt for picks and using inexpensive internal options like Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, or Johnny Kovacevic to fill their roles. That would allow Chevy to replace one of his cheaper forwards with a UFA costing up to $8 M/year from the list above or possibly someone else from the UFA pool (Ondrej Palat, Nazim Kadri, Nino Niederreiter, Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Andrew Copp, Ryan Strome, Paul Stastny, etc).
If you wanted to do more, then you could also move Scheifele and buy out/trade Wheeler and free up a minimum of $10 M (less whatever contracts acquired in trades). That would provide the Winnipeg Jets around $30 M to re-sign Dubois, find a back up goalie, and sign two UFAs to play in the top 6.
So, Chevy basically has the option to make next year's squad look very similar to this year's team by making minimal changes and gambling that new coaches/system will make a big difference in the level of their play. Or he could make some major moves, trusting in some of the Jets' younger players to step into the open NHL spots, while making some key free agent signings and/or trade acquisitions to keep the team competitive.
The final month of the off-season sees the last arbitration hearings get done and some further free agent signings as teams start to get their rosters ready for training camps in September.
The 2022 World Junior Championships also begin on August 9th in Edmonton and runs through to August 20th. Everyone who was eligible back in December is still eligible regardless of birthdate, so it’s possible we’ll see Cole Perfetti suit up for Canada, Chaz Lucius play for the US, and Daniel Torgersson don the Swedish jersey.