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Take 'em... or leave 'em?

Free agents the Jets might (or might not) be interested in

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There was blood in the water when the NHL free-agent market opened a month ago and GMs attacked the talent like hungry sharks.

That in itself is hardly a newsflash as teams typically spend big early, disappear in late July and then sift through the bargain bin come late summer.

 

And so while the hockey world watched as the early days saw Brad Richards land with the New York Rangers, Erik Cole in Montreal, Simon Gagne in L.A., Tomas Vokoun in Washington -- there was even a mini-sweepstakes for Jaromir Jagr, who turns 40 in February and hasn't played in the NHL for three years -- there are still some intriguing names unsigned.

A few of the cast could even play important roles for a squad come puck drop in October.

Now, the Winnipeg Jets have taken a conservative approach to free agency -- some would say their moves should be accompanied by a big, fat yawn -- by adding depth pieces like Derek Meech, Tanner Glass, Randy Jones and Rick Rypien.

Still, while there's a whole lot of time between now and puck drop in October we ask fans to consider the following seven forwards and whether the Jets -- still interested in finding more offensive punch -- should ink 'em or run away:

-- Nikolai Zherdev, LW: His name has been linked to the Jets for a few weeks and this rumour was further stoked in the last few days after an interview he did with broadstreethockey.com in which he hinted at possibly playing here or in the KHL. He is only 26 and the former fourth-overall pick in 2003 did score 26 goals a couple years ago. But the Jets said this week their reported interest is nothing more than a rumour. So far, at least.

His agent told the Free Press on Saturday any discussions between the team and his client would remain "internal."

-- Chris Drury, centre: His goal-scoring totals over the past five seasons -- 37, 25, 22, 14, 1... notice a theme here? The Rangers bought him out of his $7 million deal and there were reports about a degenerative condition in his knee. Oh, and he's 34. But he's said to be a character guy and he was solid for the U.S. in the Olympics.

-- Teemu Selanne, right-winger: Until the 40-year-old's name appears on the transaction wire, Jets fans will keep their hopes alive. Same old theme keeps repeating itself in news reports, however: if he opts to play for another year it will be in Anaheim.

-- Cory Stillman, left-winger: He's 36 now and made a cool $3.5 million last year, but had almost a point a game (16 in 21) after going back to Carolina at the trade deadline.

-- J-P Dumont, right-winger: Dumont is 33 now, but did pot 20 goals six times in his career. The Nashville Predators saw enough after 10 goals and 19 points in 70 games last year and bought him out.

-- Sergei Samsonov, left-winger: Had 13 goals and 40 points last year. That total, incidentally, would have been seventh best for the Thrashers. He's 32 and in decline, but...

-- Chris Clark, right-winger: Strictly a grit/character guy now at 35, but a former captain with Washington who could help mentor a young squad.

MORE LOGO DEBATE: An interesting take from Adam Proteau of The Hockey News when asked by a reader this week why 'everyone (or nearly everyone) hates the new Jets' logo?'

Proteau's response: "To be honest, I don't have a preference between the new or old Jets logos. You're going to see a mix of them at every Winnipeg home game anyway, so I don't know why people are up in arms over one or the other.

"Actually, I do know why: The Internet has demonstrated the utter inability of the general public to be universally pleased about anything. You could put a picture of a beautiful newborn baby on the web and within seconds web ogres would cheerlessly post critiques of the kid's nose, weight and hair."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2011 B6

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