Saturday, April 25, 2015

Winnipeg Jets Upcoming Free Agency

Summertime Choices
(The Winnipeg Jets UFA/RFAs)

The playoffs are over for the Winnipeg Jets. While the remaining teams in the 2015 Playoffs continue to march on GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the coaching staff led by Paul Maurice will sit down and look over the list of Winnipeg Jets Unrestricted and Restricted free agents. There is a lot to consider, the salary cap for next season is not expected to go up, in fact, there is speculation that the salary cap could even go down. The salary cap is only a minor issue for the Jets, who are not (and won't ever be) a big money team pushing the top of the cap. The biggest questions when Chevy and PoMo sit down is how they see these free agents fit with the on-ice systems developed by Maurice and the budgetary system developed by Management/Ownership. 

Take a look at the above list. Who fits where? The NHL is tough league to crack, not all these players will be with the Winnipeg Jets let alone in the NHL. Last season Ben Chiarot made the Jets through injuries to other players, he made the most of his chances and now most people believe him to be a solid NHL D man. In contrast players like Paul Postma and Keaton Ellerby have never been able to fully crack an NHL lineup. Will those 2 players be content in their current roles of AHL (occasional NHL) defencemen? Or will they seek employment across the Atlantic in the KHL?

Opinions about the last lineup that was on the ice for Game 4 against the Ducks was that it was probably the best we've seen from the Jets since moving north from Atlanta. However, to continue with the philosophy of draft and develop room has to be made for the younger players to try and crack the lineup. If all the spots with the NHL club are filled up with veterans on one-way contracts there is not a lot of room for advancement. One method of freeing up space on the NHL lineup card is not to sign UFAs. Tough choices indeed.

There are definitely some openings on the forward lines for the Jets going into next season. Taking out free agents Stafford, Frolik, Tlusty, Stempniak, Halischuk, and Galiardi (UFAs) in addition to Peluso (RFA) there are 5 openings from the last lineup we saw from the last game played. Cheveldayoff and the Jets have a draft and develop system, filling those empty slots with veteran players does not leave a lot for younger players like Andrew Copp and the Danish Dash Nik Ehlers. Not to mention bubble players like Eric O'Dell and Patrice Cormier. Logic would tell us that Cormier is on his last chance with the organization, he has been given a couple of cups of coffee with the Jets over the last few seasons but has never found a full-time spot under either Claude Noel or Paul Maurice. Eric O'Dell on the other hand is an AHL all-star who appears to be on the cusp of being an NHL regular but he has been stuck in the depth chart under veteran Jim Slater. Andrew Copp got some regular season ice-time at the end of the year and did not seem too out of place, he also drew praise from Maurice. O'Dell is a Restricted Free Agent; however, it is unlikely that he walks and should be a strong candidate for 4th line duties in the 2015-2016 season.

Who Stays and Who Goes?


For most of the season the general consensus was that Michael Frolik should be the priority signing for Cheveldayoff.  The aftermath of the Evander Kane situation saw the addition of Drew Stafford. Stafford quickly bought into the system and the identity of the Jets. He scored goals when needed, was responsible defensively. It is very doubtful that the Jets re-sign both Frolik and Stafford. Both players are due for a raise in salary and the budget conscious Jets cannot pay for both as well as fill in the other openings. Frolik plays an all-round good game, his offensive numbers are not as good as Stafford, but his defense is probably a little better. Stafford would be my choice to re-sign before the July 1st deadline.

Tough choices face the Jets General Manager, all the Free Agent forwards for the Jets were good soldiers. They did their jobs, they were good team players, and in Jim Slater's case; an exceptional community ambassador. Slater's 'Take a Jet to Work' segments showed his commitment to the city of Winnipeg and he was respected for it. That being said, it is doubtful that Slater will be offered a new contract with Winnipeg.

In my opinion I would let Frolik, Tlusty, Slater, and Galiardi walk this season. Tough business decisions indeed. If it were my money I would go try and re-sign Stafford, Stempniak, Halischuk, and O'Dell. With the exception of Stafford, who will most likely get in the 4.5 million per year range, the other 3 could all be had at reasonable prices (going off of their 2014/15 salaries). This would still leave room for players such as Ehlers and Copp to crack the line-up next season.

Tradebait Alert! Alex Burmistrov is still listed as a member of the Jets as an RFA. Playing in Russia in the KHL he has put up 'okay' numbers there. The emergence of players such as Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele have relieved any pressure or leverage Burmistrov had over the Jets. In fact, unless Alex Burmistrov's career with the Jets is more than likely done. Trade him for what you can get Chevy. 


There are 7 blue-liners signed through next season. That does not leave a ton room for any new faces on the back end. Ben Chiarot made a case for himself to be invited back as a regular NHL d-man next season as well. The Jets will have to re-sign him first before anything. Perennial bubble players Paul Postma and Keaton Ellerby will be in tough to find regular time in the NHL with the Jets. Also on the outside looking in is playoff hero Adam (Dangles) Pardy.

There is another way to make room on the blue-line is via the trade route. Signed players next year include the oft-injured Grant Clitsome and Toby Enstrom. Enstrom was exposed quite a few times during the playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. Trading either, or both, would free up slots for new/younger players and salary to sign free agents.

Again..tough choices.


This year saw a reliable duo in the crease for the Winnipeg Jets. Mike Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec did a better job this year, helping propel the Jets into the Playoffs for the first time since coming to Winnipeg. Both are signed for next year. Veteran Peter Budaj will more than likely not be signed going forward, leaving AHL rookie Connor Hellebuyck to pick up where he left off.  Fresh off completing his WHL career Eric Comrie will be looking to push for time in the AHL or to be the go-to guy in the ECHL. Journeyman goalie Juho Olkinuora (RFA) will most likely be the AHL backup.  In-house development is big on the Jets list so look for Hellebuyck to anchor the AHL team and Comrie to take the reigns in the ECHL.


Things are looking good for the Winnipeg Jets. Next year the AHL and NHL will be sharing the MTS. This will allow for the Jets to keep an eye on things without having to fly out anywhere. There is a healthy stock of draft picks in the system and GM Cheveldayoff will be looking to add more this June when the NHL Draft takes place. New players will push for time, which will hopefully drive the veterans to play harder and default making the Winnipeg Jets that much better for years to come.

Feel free to add your two cents. What would you do if you were handed the keys to the Jets Kingdom?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jerseys: Winnipeg Jets 2.0 Style

Well, this just goes to show you that you can please some of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

On one side you have those who HATE the jersey and HATE the logo. On the other side you have those who LOVE the jersey and LOVE the logo.  Some out there are ok with the logo and the jersey.

I don't mind if people out there like or dislike the jersey/logo, that is their opinions and one of the great things about living in a free society is expressing your opinions. What starts to grind on me is the people who are making it personal against True North and the Jets. Notice how people who hate the logo have to tear everything apart as to why they hate it, whereas those who like the jersey will simply say, "I like it". There doesn't have to be a reason, they are just grateful to have the team back, and to have the NHL back in Winnipeg.

I have a very simple way to explain things to the haters out there. Pool your money, raise a couple hundred million dollars and buy your own team. Create your own brand, logo, and jersey. Then watch the hate mail fly in on how YOU dropped the ball in creating the "look" of your team.

(The boys looked pretty good coming out of that Herc.)

Love them or hate them, its your opinion and you are lawfully granted the right to express yourself. So if you don't like the logo/jersey, say it. But don't hate the team or the owners for it.

Now. I'm going to go back to work so that I can earn enough money to buy a new Winnipeg Jets jersey and cheer my ass off this season! Go Jets Go!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Realigning This Mess

As we have all heard the NHL is working on a realignment plan for the 2012-2013 season.  You mean the NHL doesn’t want to keep the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast division?!? Who knew..

So after the upcoming season there will be a hole to fill in Eastern Conference and an extra team in the West that will have to jump over to the East.  There are a number of teams petitioning the NHL as to why they should be selected to move into the East Conference.  The 3 popular choices, thus far, are the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Geographically speaking all 3 of these teams should be in the East.  However, there is only room for one at the table.  But, if all 3 join the East that would severely short-change the West, 17 teams in the East and only 13 in the West might not be the best move.

Lucky #13??

One of the 13 remaining teams is the NHL owned Phoenix (Glendale) Coyotes.  The fate of the struggling franchise is far from certain.  Coyotes-Champion Elect Mayor Scruggs of Glendale is no longer certain that the team will remain in Arizona after next season.  Where the Coyotes land if they leave Glendale is unknown, they could stay in the west or they could move to the East.  If they stay in the West the same problem with re-alignment is still there. If the Coyotes move to the East, Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville can stop asking the NHL to pick them to move into the Eastern Conference.

Status Quo in the Desert

For the purpose of discussing the future makeup of the league let us presume that the Coyotes stay put for the time being under stable-local-ownership.  An existing team still needs to move from the West to make room for the Winnipeg Jets.  Who should go? Who stays?  Well, Nashville is the farthest west out of the 3 so they stay put.  That leaves us Detroit and Columbus.  If I were the one picking who gets to join the Eastern Conference I would choose the Columbus Blue Jackets.  A Columbus team in the East helps their fans more than anything.  With the bulk of their games being held outside the Eastern Conference in the past the Jackets have been bleeding money. If their fans could follow the team in the Eastern Conference they would probably watch a lot more of the games on TV and start then to follow the team from the seats in Columbus.  Detroit on the other hand has a healthy following and can probably tough it out a while longer in the Western Conference.

Breaking it Down

Northeast Division: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston; No changes, not much you can do here.

Atlantic Division: Pittsburgh, Columbus, Rangers, New Jersey, Islanders; Adding Columbus here would give them an instant geographical rival with Pittsburgh which is only a little over 3 hours away.

Southeast Division: Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Florida; Philly and Washington can get their hate on now they are in the same division, Philadelphia is the closes and best choice to join the Southeast.

Central Division: Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville; Spread out? Absolutely, but then again so is the rest of the Western Conference..  Dallas and St. Louis can see if they can not get along enough to develop a rivalry.

Pacific Division: Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix; Welcome to the toughest, meanest division in all of hockey. This division will become so good that even the folks on the farthest reaches of the east coast will stay up until 2 am to watch these guys play.

Northwest Division: Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, Minnesota, Winnipeg; All these teams either do or have hated each other and that hate will continue to grow to the point that we can nickname the division “The Rivalry Division”

Easy Fix?

No such thing, but I like my solution compared to some of the crazy ideas out there. The Canadian Division? Good god, please don’t do it! Check out the Score’s blog on this one.  In the end I just hope that the NHL does right by the fans and allows for rivalries and good matchups prevail.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What Would You Pay

Art of Negotiation

We're coming up on the middle of July and the Oilers still have a some RFAs to sign. The biggest name on the list Andrew Cogliano has also filed for Salary Arbitration. Arbitration is where the player and the team sit down across the table from each other and try to hash out what the player's worth is in front of an arbitrator. This process is not for anyone who has low self-esteem or an easily bruised ego. The player will try to inflate himself to increase his pay-day and the team will haul out every reason in the book to show why the player isn't worthy of cashing in.

Cogliano does have some pluses, he is rarely injured and is consistent with his contributions on the ice. However, those contributions are not that of a top 6 forward. Now that isn't a shot against bottom 6 guys, they are just as important to winning the Stanley Cup as the top 6 guys. In fact, history has shown that the bottom 6 guys are the ones that will grind out those important wins during the playoffs. There is a definite difference in salary when it comes to the top 6 versus the bottom 6. Top 6 forwards are the point getters, they are the ones who get the offensive zone faceoffs and therefor the better chances to contribute to the scoresheet. Bottom 6 guys get the defensive zone faceoffs, they are there to win the draw, chase down the loose puck and get it out of the zone.

Where does that put Cogs in the big picture? Well last year showed us that the Oilers coaching staff is more than happy to groom the 24 yr old center to be a good bottom 6 forward. Tom Renney was giving Cogliano the opportunity and for the most part Andrew did his job. He was making a cool million last year and is undoubtedly looking for more this year. But how much more? What is his worth compared to the rest of the league? There were 10 Centers last year that played 70+ games and had 31 to 37 points. Cogliano sits right in the middle of this pack. The top of the heap was Kyle Brodziak, the one-time Oiler played 80 games and will earn 1.3 million this season. The bottom of the group (which was a veteran add-on) was Jason Arnott. The 36 yr old is slated to make 2.5 million with the St. Louis Blues. The highest paid player on the List is Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators at a grand total of 4 million per. (Note: Fisher cashed in with Ottawa who was not prepared to let him walk as an Unrestricted Free Agent). The other player of note on the list is Tyler Bozak. Bozak is an up and comer on the list, and Toronto opened up and over-paid a little bit with the hope that Bozak continues to raise his point totals. Unlike Cogs, Bozak is counted on to be a future 2nd liner with a salary to match. Bozak is slated to earn 1.6 million next year.

*Cogliano has 3 more years of experience over Brian Boyle, their salaries in the chart are from 2010-11 season.

So, where does that leave Andrew Cogliano at the negotiating table? Well the chart above showed us that most of the players similar to Cogliano earn between 1 million and 1.3 million dollars. This is about right for a good 3rd/4th line player. Eric Belanger, just signed as UFA by the Oilers, is on a front loaded 3 year contract and is due to earn 2 million this year. Should Cogliano earn that much? No. Belanger has years of experience in the league and was one of the best face-off guys in the NHL last season (over 50% avg. for the season). Belanger also sees time on the Powerplay and the Penalty Kill. By the time Cogliano hits the age of 29 or 30 he could be one of those players. He needs to learn the craft over the next 3 years from Belanger, Cogliano already has the speed and he is tougher than most think (he was hit in the mouth with either a stick or a puck so many times last season that his dentist is now retired). Once Cogs improves his face-off totals and chips in offensively more consistently he will be one of those highly sought after Centers during his UFA years. Good luck Andrew!

 The Other Guys

Taylor Chorney and Ryan O'Marra are also RFAs..they aren't going to arbitration, they probably won't even start with the big club this season. This is not a knock against either of those guys. Right now they are more suited to the AHL than the NHL. Best they can hope for is a 1 or 2 year deal to earn the league minimum when they are in the NHL (on call up). They may improve to role players in the future, but they will never be ticket selling players. There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing in the AHL is a career. A good AHL player can earn $100,000 or more playing in the American Hockey League. Even an average player in the AHL makes more than a working-man's average salary, AND that is to play the game of hockey. We should all be so lucky.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Old Oiler to join New Jets?

Old Oiler to New Jet

According to the Winnipeg Sun (read article here), Charlie Huddy has agreed to join the coaching staff of the Winnipeg Jets.  The New Jets continue to build in the right places. Charlie Huddy brings a wealth of experience with him that should help the young Jets blueline immensely. His work behind the bench during the Edmonton Oilers 2006 cup run was invaluable.

Now. Who else from the then-hated Edmonton Oilers can the Jets find to help them build their own cup contender? Hey, if you could never beat them..just wait, they'll get old and retire and need to find work somewhere!

Goaltending Coach:
Grant Fuhr (oops, he's with Phoenix)
Bill Ranford (darn, he's in LA LA land)
Andy Moog (crap, he's with Dallas org.)

There are no other Oilers to choose from there and I doubt Winnipeg could steal Bobby Essensa from the Bruins.

Assistant Coaches:

Jari Kurri (ah to dream)
Wayne Gretzky ( need to say more)
Mark Messier (zzzzz...sorry was dreaming)

Well, here's hoping the further choices made to stand behind the Winnipeg Jets bench are good ones! Also of note in the Winnipeg Sun article it appears that there is nothing to report in the negotiations with Blake Wheeler except to say that the date for arbitration is August 3rd. Probably won't be too bad of a hearing, Wheeler is good (hope to see more next season out of him) but probably shouldn't get a huge raise.

Stay tuned for little tidbits of news as the summer progresses. Because that's what the off-season is all about.

Character Built for Survival

Homegrown Characters

Welcome to Winnipeg to most of the re-located Atlanta Thrashers! Welcome home to the rest. The new Jets, or Jets 2.0, did not have to have to send the Winnipeg Tourism video to some of their new players. No less than 3 players have a fair chance to make the team, those 3 aren't the only ones in the organization depth charts. Along with the newly aquired Eric Fehr (Winkler) and the newly signed Derek Meech and Jason Gregoire (Winnipeg), there is 18 year old D-man Peter Stoykewych and recently drafted goalie Jason Kasdork also from Winnipeg.  We've definitely come a long way since Russ Romaniuk!

Just to the South of Homegrown..

Close enough to be considered homegrown there are also a trio on Minnesotans flying with the Jets. Blake Wheeler, Big Buff Dustin Byfuglien, and D-man Mark Stuart all have roots in Minnesota. There will surely be requests from family members to catch a few games at either the MTS or Xcel Energy. Anyone who has been down the road to Minnesota can tell you that it really isn't that much different between there and Southern Manitoba/Winnipeg, so you can scratch these 3 boys off the 'Culture Shocked' list.

But What about the Future?

This team build through character is certainly a good start for the new GM. No mailing in games this season, no such thing as taking a night off, and no quitters allowed. There are a few needs that have to be met, a few razzle-dazzle skilled players added to the mix wouldn't hurt, but that being said this years free-agents weren't exactly the cream of the crop. Cheveldayoff is better off making minor fixes in terms of signing Unrestricted FAs this summer or a trade of two. Best course of action is to keep the talent that is on the roster and then re-evaluate as the season progresses and into next summer.

Beware..the End is Near (ish)

The signings and trades done so far aren't blockbusters, but they are all (except for the Ladd and Gregoire signings) for 1 year. After next season the CBA is up for renegotiation and there is bound to be a few changes in it to the way contracts and money is spent. It is doubtful there will be a lockout or a labor stoppage with this negotiation. It just wouldn't make sense, the 2011-2012 season has the chance to make big advances in the sports market in the USA. Both the NFL and the NBA are facing labor stoppages or lockouts. All those Americans are going to be looking for some sporting event to watch this winter and if the NHL is lucky and/or good they can cash in. Hopefully keep some of those football/basketball converts interested enough in the great game of hockey once those other sports get their crap together. Now, if the NHL then turns around and has their own labor strife take center stage all those gains will be lost.

Anyone taking bets that the Owners and Players will do the smart thing and work together on this?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The 1st Step is Always the Hardest

There are many great hockey blogs/news sites out there. This is not one of them. (yet..I hope)

For more professional, and perhaps fun, sites out there here are two of my favorites:

Illegal Curve (Winnipeg Sports)
The OilersNation (Great articles about the Oilers)

I'll never be as good as the people who write for these websites, but what I hope to offer is an everyday fan's look and opinion on the great sport of hockey. All opinions on here are my own and if I'm going to quote a real news story I will provide the website where I found it. Rumors and professional sports go hand in hand, I don't have sources or even people who know people (who might know someone), I will give you thoughts and opinions on hockey. That's it that's all. If I'm lucky you'll like what you read and come back for more.

Comments are always welcomed and appreciated. If you think I'm out to lunch tell me that. Keep it civil. Let's talk some hockey!

Summer..the bane of hockey fans everywhere. After the Free Agent Frenzy is complete there are only tidbits of information thrown out to us like breadcrumbs to the birds to fight over and dissect. I am definitely one of those who scour the web and sports newscasts searching for something, anything to read and discuss. Thankfully, unlike days gone by, there are far more outlets of media to scour. Growing up all we had were the newspapers. Where, if lucky, you'd be given a small blurb of information on the side column of the sports section right next to the baseball and football scores. Today we've got bloggers, posters, online newspapers, videos, and Twitter. But this is summer, all the rivers of hockey information has slowed to a trickle. We're relegated to minor contract signings or 3rd/4th line players who are getting 2-way contracts. Or if we're lucky Brian Burke will hold another news conference to trumpet his values, perhaps another interview with Craig Ramsay (new Ass. Coach w/ Florida Panthers)?

Biggest story so far to me is the announcement of the Prospects Game/Tourney being held in Penticton this fall. Teams including the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets!  For the Jets this great, they weren't able to hold a development camp this year so it will be very beneficial for the Scouts/Coaching staff to see the prospects playing together in a game setting. The Jets staff will then be able to determine who is ready for the main camp invites.

Development Camps such as the one being help by the Edmonton Oilers are very beneficial to young players. It allows them to learn about life outside of junior/university hockey. There are lifestyle classes as well as training regimes given to the players to guide them into their professional careers. It is also great for the fans to get their first glimpses of tomorrow's stars. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is making quite the impression right now to the hometown media. These top-prospects (Hall and Eberle last year) can almost do no wrong, they are a ribbon cutting and 3 kissed babies away from running for political office. They are media darlings, their interviews are gobbled up by hockey fans everywhere. Every little story coming from an NHL team these long, hot summer days are we have to get us into the fall and the start of Training Camps. Bring on the cold, bring on the snow, bring on the HOCKEY!

If you have made it this far, thank you and come back again soon. I'll have more stuff to talk about I'm sure. I'll also post interviews (mostly from the Jets and Oilers) in future blogs. I'll always be a Jets fan first and foremost, but the dark years when the Coyotes came into being were lit by the Oilers.  Thankfully the Oilers and the Jets are playing in different conferences this year! Too bad it is re-building/development years for both teams. A Jets v. Oilers Stanley Cup would be a dream series for me. I'd have to cheer for the home teams ;)

You can also follow me on Twitter. @PhillipSmithson