If it were easy, Kevin Cheveldayoff would simply push a shopping cart up and down the aisles of the NHL free-agent market and help himself to whatever talent upgrades he could find for the Winnipeg Jets.
But if the last two free-agent periods for the Jets have provided any sort of foreshadowing for what to expect in the third -- which opens Friday -- then we can take a wild guess at this unfolding over the next few days or so:
Cheveldayoff & Co. will make a ton of phone calls, serve up some legit offers and then cross their fingers one of their feelers gets a bite.
Yes, throwing dollars around like a Saudi prince has never been the Jets' approach to free agency because it is the antithesis of their core draft-and-develop blueprint. But it doesn't mean they won't be active, or at least, attempt to be active, in playing the game and augmenting their roster.
A year ago the free-agent additions featured Olli Jokinen, Alex Ponikarovsky and Al Montoya -- none of which made any significant contributions. And in Year 1 it was Kyle Wellwood, Randy Jones, Derek Meech and Tanner Glass. Role players and depth guys every one of them.
And so if Jets fans are hoping/praying/expecting the club to do what the Minnesota Wild did last summer -- throwing 13-year, $98-million deals at both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise -- then, well, prepare to be bitterly disappointed.
An example: Paul Krepelka, the agent for Boston Bruins right-winger Nathan Horton, told the Free Press Thursday in an email he had spoken to Cheveldayoff, but it was "unlikely" his client -- who has already visited Columbus -- would sign with the Jets.
Worth noting is the Jets have already committed $42 million to 15 players signed for next season and, presuming some of their restricted free agents get healthy raises -- Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little key among them -- then the club will have some room to make a big pitch to land a right-winger they covet.
The more likely scenario over the next few weeks/months is for the Jets to make a smaller splash in free agency and then try to deal for Top 6 help -- just as they did with Michael Frolik on Sunday.
Here's a look at where the Jets are with their current roster and the cap and a handful of players they may be/should be pursuing when the market officially opens.
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The Jets go to market
Players signed for 2013-14: 15
(Figures indicate 2013-14 cap hit; courtesy capgeek.com)
Goaltender: Ondrej Pavelec ($3.9 million), Al Montoya ($601,000)
Defencemen: Toby Enstrom ($5.75 million); Dustin Byfuglien ($5.2 million); Grant Clitsome ($2.07 million); Jacob Trouba ($1.83 million); Mark Stuart ($1.7 million).
Forwards: Evander Kane ($5.25 million); Olli Jokinen ($4.5 million); Andrew Ladd ($4.4 million); Michael Frolik ($2.33 million); Jim Slater ($1.6 million); Mark Scheifele ($1.56 million); Chris Thorburn ($866,667); James Wright ($650,000)
Cap payroll total: $42,208,500
2013-14 salary cap ceiling: $64.3 million
2013-14 salary-cap floor: $44 million
Jets' cap space: $23,316,500
Restricted free agents:
RW Blake Wheeler ($2.55 million)
C Bryan Little ($2.38 million)
C Alex Burmistrov ($1.5 million)
LW Eric Tangradi ($726,000)
RW Anthony Peluso ($605,000)
D Zach Bogosian ($2.5 million)
D Zach Redmond ($875,000)
D Paul Postma ($550,000)
D Arturs Kulda ($550,000)
Unrestricted free agents (2013 salary):
D Ron Hainsey ($4.5 million)
C Nik Antropov ($4.06 million)
C/W Kyle Wellwood ($1.6 million)
C/W Mike Santorelli ($1.6 million)
RW Antti Miettinen ($1.35 million)
C Aaron Gagnon ($562,500)
Filling the right side
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has made no secret of his desire to find forward help for his Top 6, preferably on the right side. Here's a list at some of the RWs available in free agency:
- David Clarkson, NJ: 2013 salary: $3 million; gritty, tough, resilient and can score. Drawing lots of interest.
- Nathan Horton, Bos: 2013 salary: $5.5 million (cap hit: $4 million); visited Columbus, also interested in Nashville. Still just 28 and a big dude at 6-2, 230 but 'unlikely' to come to the Jets, according to his agent.
- Michael Ryder, Mtl: 2013 salary: $3.5 million; now 33, but can still score: had 16 goals in 46 games last season and 35 the year before.
- Damien Brunner, Det: 2013 salary: $1.35 million; fits what the Jets are chasing: younger (27), can score (12 goals, 26 points in 44 games) and figures not to come with a gaudy price tag.
- Brad Boyes, NYI: 2013 salary: $1 million; certainly not prolific, but a decent winger.
- Jarome Iginla, Pitt: 2013 salary: $7 million; it is 2013 and not 2003, right?
- Jaromir Jagr, Bos: 2013 salary: $4.55 million; it is 2013 and not 1993, right?
- Daniel Alfredsson, Ott: 2013 salary: $1 million (cap hit of $4.875 million); hard to imagine him in anything other than a Sens uni.
Other juicy names on the market
- Mike Ribeiro, C, Wash: 2013 salary: $5 million; posted good numbers in '13 (49 points in 48 games) but figures to be over-paid in this market.
- Val Filppula, C/LW, Det: 2013 salary: $3 million; versatile, skilled and often forgotten playing with the likes of Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
- Ilya Bryzgalov, Pha: 2013 salary: $6.5 million; the NHL will be a whole lot more boring if this wacky netminder isn't around.
- Ryane Clowe, LW, NYR: 2013 salary: $4 million; tough as nails, but somewhat of an injury risk now.
- Andrew Ferrence, D, Bos: 2013 salary: $2.25 million; teams are always looking for steady, veteran D-men
- Stephen Weiss, Fla: 2013 salary: $4.1 million; wrist injury limited him to just 17 games last year. Three straight 20-goal seasons before that.
- Anton Khudobin, G, Bos: 2013 salary: $875,000; he's still just 27 and could blossom out of Tukka Rask's shadow.
- Tyler Bozak, C, Tor; 2013 salary: $1.5 million; getting a lot of love from a lot of teams heading into the market.
- Ray Emery, G, Chi: 2013 salary: $1.15 million; awesome numbers last year with the Hawks (1.94 GAA, .922 save percentage).