The Winnipeg Jets haven’t seen the postseason since the 2014-15 season in Paul Maurice’s first full season as their head coach. Fast-forward to the 2017-18 season and the Jets are in a battle for first place in the Central division, and they are not going away anytime soon.
The Jets are not focused on what will happen in the future, all they care about is bringing that first title to Winnipeg. The Jets have a deep enough roster and good enough goaltending to make a run in the postseason. The catalyst of the Jets success this season has been veteran forward Blake Wheeler.
Wheeler is having one of his best seasons as a pro. Currently, he is second in the NHL in assists with 51. The Jets have a top-3 powerplay in the NHL and Wheeler has been at the forefront of it. Wheeler has had 28 points on the powerplay this season with 23 points coming from assists.
Wheeler has also made incredible strides in his defensive game this season. Right now he has the best plus-minus rating of his career since the Jets last playoff appearance. Wheeler has also shown no fear and in turn is on pace for the most blocked shots in his career. Because of his growth defensively, Wheeler’s time on ice is at a career high.
Blake Wheeler is the captain of a Winnipeg team that has an incredibly young core. By improving on both sides of the ice Wheeler is setting examples for the young stars in Winnipeg. The most prominent of those stars has to be Patrik Laine.
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Laine is quickly developing into one of the NHL’s elite. So far this season, he has 46 points in 59 games. Laine has an incredibly strong shot that has been featured on the Winnipeg powerplay a considerable amount this season. Laine has 23 points on the powerplay this season; including a league-leading 15 powerplay goals.
Laine’s role on the Winnipeg roster will only get bigger as the years go on, but he is sure to do what he has done this year and embrace the increased role with open arms. As long as Winnipeg can keep him around, they will have a great powerplay unit.
Keeping The Core
The good news for Winnipeg is that they will have the cap space to keep this core intact. Going into 2019 the Jets will have 20.6 million dollars in cap space to work with. The Jets have plenty of decisions they will need to make this offseason, but they should be relatively easy. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, defensemen Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba headline the most notable free agents out of Winnipeg this offseason.
The big offseason for Winnipeg will come in the 2020 offseason when Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Tyler Myers, Steve Mason, and Kyle Connor all head to the open market. Winnipeg will have 40.6 million dollars to work within that offseason.
Crunching The Numbers For 2019
This offseason the Jets need to decide on a goaltender. Hellebuyck is a restricted free agent, so the Jets can match any offer made to him, but if they wanted to move forward with Mason as their goalie, they are going to have to let him walk.
With the way Hellebuyck has played this season, the Jets will most likely decide to go with him as their long-term goalie. Hellebuyck will command roughly a $4.5 million salary. That leaves Winnipeg with $16.1 million for the rest of their free agents.
The Jets will most likely sign Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, and Adam Lowry. Enstrom has been one of Winnipeg’s best defensemen, but injuries have hindered his leverage in deals. Enstrom will most likely resign a deal from anywhere between four to five million dollars. Trouba will most likely cost the Jets three million dollars. Lowry will most likely sign for a cheap deal around 1.5 million dollars.
This gives the Jets roughly $6.85 million to work out one-year trial deals. This will set the Jets up correctly for a big 2020 offseason that features the resigning of Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine.
Crunching The Numbers 2020
If the Jets make all the signings in the 2019 offseason, then that will leave them with 26.85 million dollars in cap space for what will be a pivotal offseason.
Wheeler is the first of the players that will be commanding a big deal. Wheeler’s deal will have to be upwards of five million dollars. That leaves Winnipeg with about 21.85 million dollars in cap space.
The big contract will come with Patrik Laine. Laine will command the contracts of some of the best young stars in the NHL. He will want to be the highest paid player on the team and will most likely ask for a deal that gives him around seven million dollars a year. The Jets will obviously provide him with this deal and they should because they have the cap space.
Tyler Myers is one of the critical pieces to the Jets defense, but with roughly 14 million dollars in cap space, the Jets will probably have to let Myers walk especially considering they will have to sign Kyle Connor.
Connor has been good for the Jets, but Connor will likely want about 4-5 million dollars in cap space. This would leave Winnipeg with nine million dollars to work out other deals and make sure that they don’t go away anytime soon.
The Jets also have an excellent collection of prospects on the rise towards the NHL. Jack Roslovic leads the way. The playmaking center has a very good combination of speed and stick skills that make him an intriguing talent. So far in 17 games this season he has three goals and three assists.
Brendan Lemieux, the son of Claude Lemieux, is another exciting prospect for the Jets. At 6-1 210 lbs, Lemieux could be a very productive bottom-six forward for the Jets shortly. In his nine games of NHL play, he has just one goal.
At 22-years old goaltender, Eric Comrie will be in a Jets uniform soon enough. He will most likely be a career backup, but he will be a very productive one. In Manitoba this season Comrie has a 2.54 goals against average, and .921 save percentage.
Not Going Away Anytime Soon
The Jets are starting to win, and they are not going away anytime soon. They have the money to spend and young core of players that will stay around. The Jets could become a consistent threat in the NHL playoffs, starting with a run this season.
The Jets should be competitive in these playoffs. They have all the tools a team needs to win a Stanley Cup. The Jets have a potent offense, with a terrific defense to back it up. Winnipeg will be a fun team to keep an eye on this postseason.
Featured image by: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
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