The Winnipeg Jets aren’t a team that’s going to go out and make a big splash via trade. They’re a team that’s content with what they have, and are patient enough to wait for their core to grow. But like every team, they won’t pass up on an opportunity to get even better.
The Jets are Top Five in the NHL when it comes to available cap space. And with a few expiring contracts, they’ll have even more room and money to spend in 2013.
Expect the Jets to at least try and move some expiring UFA contracts this coming season. There are a few candidates that are likely to be moved.
Ron Hainsey has been with this organization for four years and is going into the final year of his five-year contract. The Atlanta Thrashers signed him back in 2008, and Hainsey has been making $4.5 million per year ever since. The problem is he was never and will never be a $4.5 million per year player.
Hainsey is a bottom-pairing defenseman at best. He's done some good things for this franchise, but some forgettable things as well. Not to knock Hainsey, but there are times when he looks absolutely lost on the ice.
At times, he can be a very capable defenseman. But when he's trying to play in over his head with any extra minutes, he's not very good. At best, Hainsey's defensive skills are average, and his offensive production comes in spurts.
For $2.5 million a year and a spot on the third pair, he's probably worth putting on your team. Anything else and he's overpaid. If the Jets were able to move Johnny Oduya during last year's trade deadline for two draft picks, then moving Hainsey shouldn't be a problem.
Nik Antropov's time with this franchise may just be coming to an end, and maybe even his days as a solid NHLer as well. Antropov's on the final year of a four-year contract that he signed back in 2009. The veteran is getting up there in years and his best days could be behind him.
The Thrashers brought in Antropov during free agency in an attempt to make former Thrashers' superstar, Ilya Kovalchuk, pleased with the way the organization was building. Though Antropov had a very respectable season in his first year on the new contract tallying 67 points, he hasn't been able to consistently produce for a full season ever since.
Even if Antropov has a solid season in the final year of his contract, I'm still not convinced it will be enough to keep him around. Antropov is a natural center and the Jets already have natural centers in Bryan Little, Olli Jokinen, Alex Burmistrov and up-and-comer Mark Scheifele.
Antropov can still produce and would surely be sought after by other teams once the trade deadline rolls around, regardless if he's available. One thing that's certain, Antropov will forever be remembered by Winnipeg Jets' fans as the guy who scored the first goal in "new" Winnipeg Jets history.
Alex Ponikarovsky was signed to a one-year contract this past offseason. One-year contracts usually indicate the possibility of a trade. If the Jets aren't contending by the time the deadline hits, Poni could be on the hot seat.
It will be nice to see the Jets re-unite Ponikarovsky with his former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate, Nik Antropov. Ponikarovsky doesn't have much left in the tank after a Stanley Cup run with New Jersey in 2012, but he's hoping for at least one more opportunity before things go south.
The reunion might not last too long however, as both players could be moving once again.