The Winnipeg Jets have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, knocked out by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in just five games. That ends what was an outstanding season for the Jets, who not only climbed into the playoff picture but showed they could be a long-term contender. Their young core has all reached new heights, and should be able to put pressure on the best teams in the Western Conference for some time.
With those young pieces though come several big decisions. The offseason, not even 24 hours old for the Jets, already must seem too short for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the rest of the front office staff. Not only do they have to prepare for the draft in a month’s time, but the roster has just 14 players under contract for next season.
The biggest negotiations will come with Winnipeg’s pending restricted free agents. The list is a who’s who of talent on their club, and will chew up a big part of their salary structure if signed this summer. The Jets’ restricted free agents include:
Especially on defense and in goal, these are key players who could demand long-term contracts with substantial cap hits. Trouba, who once wanted out of Winnipeg to play a bigger role somewhere else, has recently indicated that he would like to stay with the Jets long-term. The team would obviously want that too, but have to carefully manage their finances as they approach restricted free agency next summer with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Success is eventually paid for.
With so many restricted free agents, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Paul Stastny, Toby Enstrom, Matt Hendricks, Shawn Matthias and Michael Hutchinson are also headed for the unrestricted waters this summer. Several of these players will generate extensive interest should they hit the open market, and it’s not clear if Winnipeg intends on re-signing any of them. If they do, July 1st is coming quicker than you may think, and work needs to be done to secure their future contracts.
Either way, Winnipeg has a busy few months ahead of them as they try to piece the roster back together and take another shot at the Stanley Cup in 2019. Though there needs to be a few days of decompression from their shocking defeat, there’s plenty of work to be done.