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Who Stays and Who Goes Among Winnipeg Jets Unrestricted Free Agents

The NHL off-season is almost here and as a result, the Winnipeg Jets have decisions to make about their pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Winnipeg is a team with a high floor but a low ceiling when it comes to potential. The recent promotion of new Head Coach Scott Arniel is more of the same from the team. This puts an extra emphasis on General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to perform roster surgery if the Jets are to be contenders again next season. The logical place to start is with the team’s pending free agents. The Jets made a lot of moves at the trade deadline. Now after a disappointing five-game reverse sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, it is time to face the consequences.

Winnipeg Jets Crop of UFAs

The list of the current Winnipeg Jets UFAs include; Tyler Toffoli, Sean Monahan, Dylan DeMelo, Brenden Dillon, Collin Miller, and Laurent Brossoit. Needless to say, a group of players very important to the depth of the lineup. Let’s take a look at these players as well as others too, and their impact on the organization.

Dylan DeMelo

DeMelo is a must-sign for the team that has zero depth and stability when it comes to right-handed defencemen. Demelo has shown that he wants to stay here and has started a family in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is not the flashiest of players which leads to a large section of the fanbase wanting more out of him. But you could do a heck of a lot worse than Josh Morrissey and Demelo as your first pairing. Just imagine how mediocre this team would be with Neal Pionk taking the lion’s share of the minutes if DeMelo were to leave. No thanks.

Collin Miller and Laurent Brossoit

These are two players the team would enjoy coming back but the possibility just is not that high for different reasons. Brossoit is likely the best UFA goalie on the market and will be looking for a starting job. The Jets had the best backup in the league this past year and only played him 23 games. It does not make sense to pay premium dollars for a backup who will barely see the ice. Moreover, Miller is a solid depth piece, but why would he re-sign in Winnipeg after the team paid a draft pick for him and then barely played him at all? Miller will likely go where his services are more appreciated.

The Rest of the Winnipeg Jets UFAs

In an ideal world, the Jets find a way to sign all these players for the right price. But sports are a business and that will not be happening. Toffoli looked extremely slow in his short stint with the team and the Jets would be better off moving on than giving the older veteran a long-term and large payday. It would pretty shocking to see him re-sign with Winnipeg.

Monahan is in a similar boat but the Jets don’t have a replacement to take his spot as they have for Toffoli. Passing on signing Monahan makes sense as he will make more money than he deserves on the open market. In addition, he is not the difference-maker you need from your second-line centre. He is slow, a passenger on his line, middling at 5-on-5 and relies on the power play for his offence. There are many cheaper power play options out there in free agency. However, it would not be a surprise at all to see him signing a long-term extension to stay with the Jets. Lastly, Dillon is a great player but his age and the Jets depth behind him leave no room for him. Dylan Samberg is ready to try out top-four minutes and Ville Heinola is ready to be a full-time NHLer. Plus these two young defencemen will cost less together next season than Dillon will alone.

Change Should be on the Horizon for the Jets

Every team in the league is under the vice grip of the salary cap. The Jets are no different. Winnipeg currently has enough cap space for two of the bigger unrestricted free agents mentioned in this article. Or maybe even three if they buy out or trade a bloated contract. In an off-season where the goal should be to get younger and faster it makes sense to move on from most of the players mentioned. However, Winnipeg has never been too innovative in free agency. They also tend to be very patient when it comes to trading so it could be more of the same this off-season. The team has the wiggle room to perform major roster surgery. But fans will have to wait to see if that actually happens later this summer.

Main photo credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Aron Kiviharju

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