It’s time for the Winnipeg Jets to loosen the purse strings.
The current roster has 15 players seeking a new contract and the Jets have yet to make a move in solidifying anyone.
These include forwards Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Nik Antropov, Alexander Burmistrov, Kyle Wellwood, Anti Miettinen, Eric Tangradi, and Anthony Peluso. In the back end are defencemen Zach Bogosian, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome, Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, and Derek Meech. Back-up goaltender, Al Montoya, is also without a commitment for next year.
If you take a look around the league, most teams have their nucleus. They know who will be present come next year’s spring camp. It’s common for NHL clubs to have six or seven guys awaiting contracts but these guys are usually deeper in the depth charts. They’re the guys constantly earning their spots each year, and don’t warrant a strong commitment from any club around the league. That’s not to say they don’t offer a team anything, it’s just the nature of the business and these players understand that.
The Winnipeg Jets have a handful of these guys: Wellwood, Miettinen, Clitsome and Meech. These players will most likely live the remainder of their careers with one or two year contracts. That’s ok.
There’s also a few contracts the Jets’ front office might be happy to see go. Hainsey has come with an expensive price tag, earning a combined $8-million in two years as a Jet. Antropov’s $4-million (and change) contract will also expire at the end of the season.
But when you have a number of your top-end players still wondering exactly where they’ll be come fall, then you have a problem.
Looking at that list above, the Jets entire top forward line- minus Ladd- await what the future has in store. Bogosian, one of the team’s top blue-liners, has also yet to ink a deal.
When you’re in the last year of your contract, the focus of a player can often turn from what’s best for the team, to what’s best for me. The NHL is a business. Players are here to make money. They are constantly comparing themselves to contracts around the league, coming up with a number to describe their self-worth.
The only thing that can stop this train of thought: job security.
The Jets need to lock up the players they want and they need to do this now. They cannot continue to chase the dream of a playoff birth without committing to their locker room. Contracts allow players to breathe easy and focus on their game. Winnipeg is a tough place to play. It’s even tougher when you don’t know if you’re wanted back.
The Jets-brass has asked fans for patience, preaching that there’s an on-going process with this team. One can only think from this that they like what they have, that they’re willing to invest in the roster they inherited from Atlanta. Like it or not, it’s who we’ve got. The chance to make the playoffs is still much alive.
If there’s one thing certain in the NHL, it’s that any team can win against any team on any night.
Just this past weekend 13th-place Colorado snapped Chicago’s 24-game unbeaten (in regulation time) streak with a dominating 6-2 victory. A day later, Columbus blanked the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 and Toronto erased a two-goal deficit against a powerhouse Pittsburgh team, earning a single point after falling short in a shootout.
The Jets currently have more than $30-million in the bank before they reach the cap ceiling next year. There’s certainly money to go around. That’s not to suggest that every player should be committed to this season, but some faith in players would go a long way entering the second half of the year.
All they have to do is loosen those purse strings.