The Winnipeg Jets have nine pending unrestricted free agents who come from every position on the ice. Each comes with a varying chance of re-signing with the Jets this summer.
Trevor Lewis: Trevor Lewis isn’t a flashy player, but he is effective. He’s played a hard-working, shut-down, fourth-line role alongside fellow veterans Mathieu Perreault and Nate Thompson with aplomb.
Lewis made the Jets against the odds after a professional tryout agreement and has worked out well, shouldering a key role on the Jets’ improved penalty kill and ensuring his line doesn’t get scored on five-on-five. He’s plus seven and has only been on the ice for three even-strength goals against all season.
Lewis has a playoff pedigree as he won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings and he’s versatile, capable of playing centre and wing. If the Jets can sign him for the league minimum or near it next season, they should do so. Odds: 5/10
Mathieu Perreault: Perreault has produced decently in a bottom-six role and has also seen some time on the power play. As of this writing, he has nine goals and eight assists for 17 points and has skated an average of 11:14. Unlike the past two seasons, the veteran has actually stayed healthy.
The biggest knock on Perreault is his current $4.125 million salary, far too much for a fourth liner. If the Jets were to re-sign him, it would have to be at a much lower price. Personally, this author would like to see the team move on from the 33-year-old and give the younger guys an opportunity. Odds: 3/10.
Paul Stastny: Stastny has been invaluable to the Jets in his second go-around with the team. He is intelligent and low-maintenance, is good in the face-off dot, and his ability to play both centre and left wing gives head coach Paul Maurice plenty of options. His presence overall provides the Jets depth and stability that has served them well.
Stastny is not the high-end offensive talent he was in his prime, but still has 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points this season and has played almost exclusively on the top six. His play has made a good case for a re-up, and this author would love to see the 35-year-old return next season. However, the only way that will happen is if he accepts a deal far more team-friendly than his current $6.5 million cap hit. Odds: 4/10
Nate Thompson: The 36-year-old Thompson has played a fourth-line centre and penalty-kill role. He has two goals and three assists for five points and has skated an average of 9:18.
With Jansen Harkins, Cole Perfetti, Kristian Vesalainen, and other youngsters champing at the bit for more opportunities, common sense would say there’s no room for Thompson in the Jets’ lineup next season. But when you consider the veteran bias Maurice — and to a lesser extent, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff — have, one can’t say for certain that Thompson won’t be re-signed. Odds: 4/10
Dominic Toninato: Toninato was signed to a one-year, two-way deal in October, 2020 but hasn’t played a single game with the Jets or the Manitoba Moose. The fifth-round 2015 pick has been a staple of the taxi squad; he didn’t do himself any favours when he failed his training camp physical and started the season on the Long-Term Injured Reserve.
There’s almost zero chance he returns next season. Odds: 1/10.
Jordie Benn: Benn was acquired at the Trade Deadline from the Vancouver Canucks for a sixth-rounder. He’s simply an insurance policy in case another defenseman gets injured and the only reason he’s on the team at all is because Cheveldayoff came up empty on all his other attempts to get higher-profile d-men.
Benn will see some games down the stretch, but statistically, the 33-year-old is not an upgrade over any of the Jets’ regular six defenders. Expect him to move on this summer unless he absolutely turns heads in the next few weeks. Odds: 2/10
Derek Forbort: Forbort is a tough customer, hard hitter, and a warrior. He has dished out 67 hits, blocked a team-high 96 shots, and has recorded two goals and eight assists in a second-pairing role with fellow Minnesotan Neal Pionk.
Two months ago, no one would have argued against re-signing Forbort as he was a big-time boost to the blue line in the first third of the season. However, he’s faded a bit down the stretch and has been beaten more lately. He’s perhaps feeling fatigued as he’s been relied upon to be a top-four defenseman when he’s really more suited to the third pairing.
Nonetheless, Forbort provides the Jets’ d-corp with much needed size, and they’ve gotten a good return on of their $1 million investment as Forbort has averaged 20-plus minutes per game.
If the Jets can re-sign Forbort for a similar price next season and deploy him in a lesser role, they should consider doing so. With Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg in the system, though, the Jets probably won’t open up the wallet to widely for him. This means there’s a good chance he’ll look for a raise elsewhere. Odds: 5/10
Tucker Poolman: Poolman is a defensive defenseman who goes about his business quietly. He missed 11 games due to COVID-19 early in the season but has played in 31 contests and skated an average of 18:13. He most frequently plays with Josh Morrissey on the top pairing, but his offensive numbers have dipped. He has no goals and just one assist all season, compared to four goals and 12 assists in 57 games last season.
While he’s arguably being utilized incorrectly — he is more accurately described as a second- or third-pairing calibre — the 27-year-old has become a fixture on the Jets’ back-end. It’s this author’s opinion he’ll sign a modest two- or three-year deal in the offseason. Odds: 8/10
Laurent Brossoit: Brossoit is in his third season as the Jets’ backup but even in a condensed season with fewer off days, hasn’t seen much action behind reigning Vezina-winner Connor Hellebuyck. The big backstop has provided steady services for the most part, sporting a 6-3-0 record, 2.57 Goals Against Average, .917 SV%, and one shutout in nine starts and 10 appearances.
Brossoit will make a couple more starts down the stretch but won’t have a huge body of work to show off to potential suitors looking for a starter this summer. He has signed one-year deals with the Jets in each of the past two seasons, and this author expects him to do just that again. Odds: 8/10
What do You Think?
Do you agree with the author’s takes or do you think his odds are off base? Comment below and let’s discuss!
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.