Current projected cap space: 6.9 million
2015-16 Record: 35-39-8 78 pts
Life can be lonely on The Wall. Something about a giant wall of ice between you and the untamed wild of the North sends a chill down your spine. So be it, the life of the Winnipeg Jets. The once defunct team, resurrected like Jon Snow by the dark magic of Melisandre, is still struggling to make sense of life after death.
The Jets are definitely not as bad as their record suggests. They finished last in arguably the toughest division in the NHL last season, but anyone who's watched them play knows they bring a tough game to any arena. They're fast, they're physical, and with some young talent still learning the ropes, they are not far off from becoming very dangerous.
In their 5 seasons since "the resurrection", the Jets have qualified for the playoffs just once. The Anaheim Ducks made short work of the Jets in the 2014-15 post-season, where they were swept out of the first round.
Paul Maurice is entering what will be his third full season as head coach. That consistency behind the bench, as well as on the bench is due to start gelling in a big way. This offseason, the Jets have remained fairly idle. While several UFA's for the Jets remain unsigned, the organization have extended the contracts of several players, including Mark Scheifele who inked an 8-year, 49 million dollar contract. Scheifele was the first ever draft pick of the Jets organization since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta, a 7th overall selection in the 2011 NHL draft.
The Jets also lured in Shawn Matthias, who was traded last season from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Colorado Avalanche. We profiled him a bit in our Avalanche article last week, but Matthias brings with him a large frame and 479 NHL games of experience. He spent most of his career playing for the Florida Panthers, but has never been known as an elite goal scorer. He provides good size at center and should help bolster the Jets penalty kill.
The Jets also acquired Quinton Howden and Brian Strait. Quinton, who is only 24, was a 25th overall selection for the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL draft. He's been touted as being defensively responsible and a great skater who gets on the gas in a hurry. In 92 career NHL games with the Panthers he has only registered 10 goals along with 7 assists.
Strait has 6 seasons under his belt but has never played in more than 52 games in a season. Standing at 6'1" and 206 lbs, Strait uses his size to help defensively. He spent his last 4 seasons playing for the New York Islanders after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 3rd round of the 2006 NHL draft.
The Jets haven't lost much this offseason either. They certainly haven't lost anybody that might be on the common fans radar. A few younger guys have signed in Europe, but that's about it. Grant Clitsome announced his retirement last June at just 31 years of age after suffering a serious back injury in the 2014-15 season which limited him to just 24 games that year. He did not take to the ice at all in the 2015-16. Injuries hampered Clitsome's career, which is a shame as he never really got a chance to hit his stride and he showed some decent possession metrics in his short career.
With the young guns of Patrik Laine, Jacob Trouba, and Nikolaj Ehlers, combined with veterans Blake Wheeler, the aforementioned Scheifele, and Dustin Byfuglien throwing his weight around (not to mention his insatiable appetite for planet sized meals), it would not be wise to count the Jets out of returning to the playoffs very soon. Their biggest struggle last season came between the pipes. If they can get even just some slightly better numbers out of their platoon in net of Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson they should be able to make a serious run at the playoffs this season.