NHL Rumor Mill – April 28, 2023
Big changes could be coming for the Jets roster following this disappointing season. Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
“Do they choose to keep this team together and add a few players to address their problem areas? Or do they believe it’s in their best interest to start looking ahead to their future instead?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets have been in decline since reaching the 2018 Western Conference Final. They’ve only won one playoff round since then and missed the postseason last year. It’s time to look to the future.
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen believes hard decisions face the Jets this summer.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. Meanwhile, winger Nikolaj Ehlers and blueliners Nate Schmidt and Neal Pionk have two years remaining on their contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a reputation for being patient to a fault. However, he’s now in a situation where he may have little choice but to shake up this roster core. The results speak for themselves.
Cheveldayoff signed a three-year contract last year. However, if he’s unwilling to make the changes this roster needs, the club’s ownership should find someone who will.
If any of those pending UFAs aren’t interested in extensions this summer they should be shopped for the best available returns. It’s senseless to hang onto them for one more season and expect a better result. Keeping them around will be an unnecessary distraction next season as all the focus will be on their contract statuses and whether any of them will be shopped before the trade deadline.
Friesen’s colleague Ted Wyman examined why the Jets were the first club eliminated from this postseason.
While acknowledging Hellebuyck is the best goalie in franchise history, Wyman was critical of his postseason performances. He was scathing of Dubois’ effort in Game 5.
“You’d have been hard-pressed to believe that Dubois was trying his hardest in Game 5,” wrote Wyman.” Unless by that, you mean he was trying his hardest to get out of town, and the organization, as quickly as possible after this season.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been plenty of speculation going back to last summer linking Dubois to the Montreal Canadiens. If the Habs are interested in him, perhaps they’ll have second thoughts after watching his performance in Game 5 of this series.
SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe noted Jets head coach Rick Bowness held nothing back in his brief post-game presser regarding his club’s performance in this series and during the season. “I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now,” he said, calling out his players’ lack of pushback and pride.
Wiebe acknowledged the Jets played with Ehlers sidelined for all but Game 5 and lost top defenseman Josh Morrissey in Game 3 and leading goal-scorer Scheifele in Game 4. Nevertheless, he thinks Bowness’ comments support the idea of shaking up the Jets’ core but he wondered how deep those changes will be.
If contract extensions for Hellebuyck, Scheifele, Dubois, Wheeler, DeMelo and Dillon aren’t possible, Wiebe speculated the Jets could decide to move most of them in what is expected to be an “on-the-fly retool.” Much will depend on the trade market and what kind of offers the Jets receive for those players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Cheveldayoff and the team’s ownership won’t listen to the pundits, perhaps they should consult Jets fans.
Friesen recently reported the club’s attendance has tumbled in recent years along with the quality of the on-ice product. This season’s average attendance (14, 045) is the lowest since they moved to Winnipeg, not counting the two COVID-plagued seasons when games were held in empty or near-empty arenas.
He also pointed out that Jets fans haven’t been happy with the players’ lackluster performances over the past two seasons. This comes at a time when the club’s ownership recently asked the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce for more support from local businesses in the form of season-ticket purchases.
Winnipeg fans are happy to have an NHL team again but they expect it to be competitive. Given Bowness’ blistering remarks about the Jets’ performance this season, it’s time for the front office to avoid another patchwork effort for short-term gains and make real changes to improve this club over the long term.