The Winnipeg Jets enter the offseason with just over $33 million in cap space. After re-signing their key free agents, they should have close to $20 million, give or take a few, in available cap space. They have more than enough room to utilize it any way they want to, but the important question to ask is how can they use it to their advantage?
We saw what the Florida Panthers did last season when they signed a boat-load of free agents which not only iced a playoff competitor, but eventually propelled them to a division title. They proved that it can be rewarding to use your available cap space. There are millions of ways to utilize the cap to your advantage, but there are certain ramifications that come with each way.
Should the Jets do what the Panthers did last season? Will they be content with just reaching the cap floor or will they try to go beyond it? There are a lot more questions to be asked and a lot more ways to go about it, but there is only one way for the Jets—the way that helps them remain stable.
And it’s easy to locate that route.
The Jets have a lot of cap space available and have some roster spots that need to be filled for this upcoming season. They could go and throw money at players to fill that need or they could try out some of the younger players that are already in this organization.
Why not go with the latter for many reasons? The Jets are a young team. They need to see what these young prospects bring to the table. And prospects don’t tie up cap space with outrageous contracts.
We see it every year. Teams are going out and overpaying for players and are regretting it a year later. And for what? To show your fans that you’re spending money? It would be a different story if the Jets were going to sign an already-proven superstar like Zach Parise. But that’s not happening.
The Jets don’t need to be tied up in cash with a bunch of players playing in over their heads. They don’t need to go out and sign five to eight free agents to be competitive. Their best bet would be to not use their cap space at all. Yes, not use it at all...at least after they reach the floor.
The Jets don’t need to be one of the highest salaried teams in the league. They don’t need to go beyond the cap floor to be a "good" team. Signing a bunch of players isn’t a successful method…not in the long haul and not in their situation. It will do more damage to the Jets.
There are disadvantages that can be damaging when trying to use the available cap space. The Jets have to be careful not to get tied up with a player that would hurt their cap in the long run. Ron Hainsey is a fine example. The Thrashers overpaid for him a few years ago just so they can say they "signed someone."
The Jets shouldn’t be worried about just "signing someone" for the sake of it or to please the fans by making it seem as though they’re being active. There shouldn’t be any pressure on Kevin Cheveldayoff that forces him to overpay for someone who isn’t needed.
It’s relieving to be one of the teams with the most cap space in the entire league...knowing that it can be utilized to your liking when the time is right, but it also tells you, both literally and figuratively, that there is room to be filled now.
There are smarter methods to fill it.