What a year it was for the Winnipeg Jets.
2013-14 will go down in the short history of the team as the turning point for the franchise. Out went Claude Noel, in came Paul Maurice. Young hopefuls like Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba became fulltime team members while others seemingly have set themselves on a path out of the River City.
When NHL Free Agency opens tomorrow, a new chapter will begin for the Jets.
While 6 RFA’s – including Michael Hutchinson and Carl Klingberg – are being retained with qualifying offers. Adam Pardy has been all-out re-signed, as was Chris Thorburn just hours before the midnight deadline.
With all this being said though, a number of (former) Winnipeg Jets now test the free agent waters.
The first strike came when TSN’s ace insiders reported that Keaton Ellerby is not being given a qualifying offer, which means the youngster is now a UFA.
That leaves, still, a bevy of names to be determined. While Devon Setoguchi is more than likely not returning, Olli Jokinen is up in the air, as is Al Montoya, backup to Ondrej Pavelec.
The interest for Winnipeg Jets fans though on NHL Free Agency opening day, however, is not as much about who is departing or staying, but who is potentially incoming, and while some names are a pipe dream, others within sight.
Consider, for example, Michael Del Zotto. With the rumors not stopping that Dustin Byfuglien is tradeable, Del Zotto would fill his skates nicely on the blueline. Salaries would be comparable as well.
Character up the middle is also available in the form of Derek Roy. With Jokinen all but gone, Roy fills that gap nicely, even if it’s only for a year before Adam Lowry comes up from the AHL.
Between the pipes, meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens have decided not to attempt to re-sign Devan Dubnyk, who might be a good fit while Michael Hutchinson polishes off his development in the A.
No matter which way the NHL Free Agency opening goes, expect the sparks to ignite quickly, which means that Canada Day will be exciting for Winnipeg Jets staff and fans alike.