Hextall on Hockey: Jets need to make a free agency deal

Free agency used to be fun.

Watching GMs lose their collective minds and sign players to long-term, mega-money deals.

Now, free agency is based on calculated risk.

Today’s GMs operate on a tight leash, as one financial mishap in free agency can lead to years of salary cap issues for a franchise.

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Which brings us to the Winnipeg Jets.

Never has there been concern that the Jets will sell the farm in free agency.

Winnipeg operates under a draft-and-develop model, which has served the organization very well — Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Kyle Connor, Connor Hellebuyck, etc.

But this off-season, it was made clear the Jets were targeting a top-pairing defenceman.

Unfortunately for Winnipeg, many free agents who fit that mould put pen to paper prior to testing the open market, which leaves the whales in the free-agent pool.

Read more: Winnipeg Jets sign Paul Stastny, trade for defenceman

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This leads to the Jets making moves through trades — case in point, the acquisition of defenceman Brenden Dillon.

The cost: two second-round picks, but at a $3.9-million cap hit for three years, Dillon isn’t cheap but doesn’t trigger cap concern.

However, at some point, a deal in free agency has to factor into the formation of the franchise.

It doesn’t have to happen this Wednesday, but it does have to happen.

Going out and being aggressive to sign top talent proves to your players, who were drafted and developed and now stars in the league, that the team is serious about winning; that Winnipeg is a place to sign and stay when free agency becomes a factor in deciding their futures.

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