NHL free agency begins Friday afternoon. Unlike years past, it’s not full of highly coveted players, but it should still be a busy time for the NHL.
The Winnipeg Jets, on the other hand, will probably be one of the few teams that aren’t too busy.
Like previous offseasons, the Jets are usually quiet when it comes to free agency. This year will be no different. While other teams rush to overpay players, Kevin Cheveldayoff will sit back and evaluate his options.
This year’s free-agent market, in terms of talent, definitely isn’t up to par with previous years. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to. Sure, there aren’t a ton of high-profile players available, but the Jets are never involved with those types of players anyway.
Jets fans shouldn’t expect anything major to happen. However, it would be a shock if Cheveldayoff did nothing at all.
It’s no secret as to what the Jets will be looking to add. The Jets need a second-line right wing to play opposite of Evander Kane. They could also use some more depth at center, but that's lower on the priorities. Whether Cheveldayoff attempts to fill these needs during free agency or through trade is up in the air.
Something else to consider is whether or not the Jets plan to roll with some of their young talent, such as Mark Scheifele. If the Jets plan to have Scheifele in the lineup as an everyday player, then targeting a center through free agency probably isn’t happening.
There are a lot of different players that the Jets should keep a close eye on. Not all players sign contracts at the start of free agency, and there are usually more than a few bargains available.
At right wing, Michael Ryder should be high up on the Jets radar. In fact, he should be the primary target. At 33 years old, he still has plenty left to offer, including another potential 30-goal season. He would easily fill the void on the second line. It also wouldn’t cost much. Ryder makes a lot of sense in Winnipeg.
A low-risk/high-reward type of signing could be Peter Mueller. It wouldn’t cost much and the benefit to having a player like Mueller is that he could play both wing and center, if needed. Mueller may not have that “wow” factor surrounding him anymore, but he’s still young at 25 and still has the potential and upside that he once had before his unfortunate concussions.
Another under-the-radar signing could be Mason Raymond. He’s extremely fast and plays an up-tempo style. He showed a lot of promise in the 2009-10 season when he put up 53 points but regressed after that. At 27, maybe a change of scenery is what Raymond needs to get back on track.
A couple of other low-risk targets could be Benoit Pouliot and Guillaume Latendresse. Both of these players would be the recipient of short-term deals; Latendresse, especially, given his history of injuries.
Nathan Gerbe could also be one of those players looking for a fresh start in Winnipeg.
Age won't be a determining factor in the decision-making process. Last year, the Jets signed 33-year-old Olli Jokinen. Another non-issue is the cap. The Jets have a lot of money to spend and a lot of space to play around with.
It’ll be interesting to see what Cheveldayoff does this time around. Will he try and make that “splash” signing or will it be another quiet day at the office? It’s always a mystery with the Jets and Cheveldayoff.