There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff failure. While most are pointing the finger directly at Paul Maurice, the head coach will undoubtedly be back in the fall, but a number of his players won’t be.
With a long list of free agents, it’s setting up to be a summer of change for the Jets.
“Is the team going to be the same?” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “I could stand here last year, and tell you with greater certainty that there was going to be a lot of pieces that we were going to do our darndest to keep, and come back. And even then, you saw we couldn’t do it all then. This year, certainly there is going to be some changes.”
Throughout the organization, they have a total of 26 players on expiring contracts, including 15 of them at the NHL level. And with a projected salary cap of $83 million next season, that would leave the Jets around $27 million in cap space.
“We have some tough decisions to make this summer, and a lot of them.” Cheveldayoff said.
The biggest decision probably surrounds defenceman Jacob Trouba. The Jets have managed to tap dance around his situation ever since his holdout to start the 2016 campaign. But with Trouba set to become a restricted free agent, and just a year away from unrestricted free agent status, it might be time to finally fish, or cut bait by trading the 24-year-old.
“I’m not going to get into any negotiations or talk about where we’re at.” Cheveldayoff said.
“Same answer as always.” Trouba said when asked if he wanted to be a long term member of the Jets. “We’ll figure out once things get going in the summer, what’s best, and move forward from there. We got to sit down, kinda have a meeting, and figure out what to do moving forward.”
But Trouba is only one of their eight restricted free agents where their priority has to be re-signing their two blossoming 30-goal scorers in Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.
“It’s obviously a different position than what I’ve ever been in,” Connor said. “But I’m sure the agent is gonna have talks with the G.M. and everything.”
“There’s a lot of time before the next year,” Laine said. “Not worried about the contract right now.”
The Jets also have seven unrestricted free agents.
And with the bulk of their cap space expected to be dedicated to their young guns, players like Kevin Hayes, Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot could all hit the open market.
“I’m sure I’ll end up in a spot with a great coach, and a great team,” Hayes said. “It might be in Winnipeg to be honest. I’ve had an unbelievable time here.”
“I’m proud to be a Winnipeg Jet,” Chiarot said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be since the team moved here.”
WATCH: Raw Kevin Cheveldayoff Interview