It's day four of NHL free agency and the Winnipeg Jets are still in need of reaching the cap floor, which is roughly $54 million. In order for the Jets to reach that area, they’ll have to spend a little more than $5.5 million in the remainder of this offseason.
The Jets have roughly $48.6 million in payroll and have five openings on their roster with a major RFA still left to re-sign. The Jets have already been quite active in free agency with signings in each of the first two days.
On day one, General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff went out and brought Derek Meech back and signed Alexei Ponikarovsky to a one-year deal. On day two, Cheveldayoff signed Olli Jokinen to a two-year deal. With more needs to be filled, Cheveldayoff took a day off on day three.
It's day four and the Jets will look to fill those needs from here on out to help get to the cap floor. But how will the Jets approach it and who will they look to sign? With where the Jets currently stand, it’ll be easy for them to spend at least $6 million more.
The first part is simple and should be obvious. Evander Kane is going to get re-signed at some point in the coming weeks. Kane’s contract should take up at least $4 million of what’s needed to reach the floor. With the major RFAs out of the way, the Jets will look to UFAs to fill out their roster.
One of the major roster needs is a backup goaltender. The cost should be very minimal but will help net the Jets closer to the cap floor. I would not expect any amount to be over $1 million per year for a backup goalie, no matter whom that goalie may be.
After these two signings, the Jets will have three openings left. Spencer Mahacek would then be the last RFA on the team. The Jets will look to get him back on the roster or maybe a two-way deal which could possibly leave two spots open. By now, the Jets should be at the floor or very close to it.
However, there are two spots left so I’ll bite. Cheveldayoff said he’s not done yet, not by any stretch of the imagination. He’s been clear the whole time that the Jets will be active as soon as the free agency period began. I’m expecting the Jets to go for another forward and/or defenseman via free agency.
I’d say there’s an outside chance the Jets try to make a splash with Alexander Semin. It’s probably up to the player at this point, but after Cheveldayoff showed courage and commitment by going hard after Zach Parise, anything becomes possible with this committed management and ownership.
There are other possibilities out there, cheaper and more flexible options. I’ve been pondering about it for a while, but a Cam Barker signing could make sense right now. As it stands, the Jets' sixth defenseman is Grant Clitsome with Meech being a possibility.
The Jets will need more than just six defenseman and there isn't a drop off between Barker, Clitsome, and Meech. Barker would be a cheap option with an extremely low risk/high reward potential. Plus, he's a Winnipeg boy. For a bottom-pairing defenseman, you can't go wrong.
If the Jets look to fill out their roster with forwards via what's left in free agency, there is one option that intrigues me. I'm not sure if he's on the Jets' radar or if the Jets are even looking center at this point, but Peter Mueller could be a very nice addition to the lineup. If it weren't for his injuries, he'd already be an NHL regular. Just like Barker, it's a low risk/high reward opportunity. And just like Barker, another change of scenery could do him good.
There are other opportunities out there and Cheveldayoff is looking at them all. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jets in on the trade front. The Jets should reach the cap floor relatively easily and become a stronger team in the process.