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This article was published 22/4/2019 (1126 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's shaping up to be the busiest summer in Winnipeg Jets history. And there's a good chance the team that hits the ice in October is going to look a lot different than the one that gathered Monday at Bell MTS Place for one final time this season.
The Jets have seven regular roster players set to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs), able to pick their next home if they don't re-sign with Winnipeg before July 1. Another seven are restricted free agents.
That's one heck of a to-do list for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
"It will be a challenge. It’s an evolution of an organization that you get to this point," Cheveldayoff said Monday. "We have some tough decisions to make this summer, a lot of them. Is the team going to be the same? I could stand here last year with greater certainty that there was going to be a lot of pieces that were going to do our darndest to keep and come back, and even then we couldn’t do it all then. This year, there’s certainly going to be some changes."
Don't expect centre Kevin Hayes to be back, even though the February trade-deadline addition didn't close that door as he met with the media for a final time.
"I had a blast here. It was great being traded here. They have a good group, good leadership core and the coach is great. Although it was cut short I had an unbelievable time here and I wouldn’t change it," said Hayes, who will likely be looking for a multi-year deal with a big pay raise from the US$5.175 million he made this season.
There's almost no chance that happens with the Jets, who will have plenty of salary cap issues to deal with. The same likely goes for unrestricted free agent defencemen Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot and winger Brandon Tanev, who may have priced themselves out of this market with strong seasons.
"Obviously never been in this position before. Trying not to really put too much into it. Door’s always been open to stay. I’ve always said I really enjoy our room. I think we have a team that has some really good pieces around it. Obviously we finished a little earlier than we wanted. But lovely group and we’ll see what happens here in the next month or two," said Myers.
"It's obviously a new situation for me, my family. I haven't really thought about it too much. Usually you get to the summer and that kind of stuff starts coming up. It's different, obviously. You're restricted for so long, and then all of a sudden you're not. It's kind of a funny feeling when you go from restricted to not. Hopefully a team... we'll see what happens this summer," said Chiarot.
"It's the business side of hockey. I think that's when our two sides will have to come together and try to make things work out," said Tanev.
The other UFAs are trade-deadline acquisitions Matt Hendricks and Bogdan Kiselevich.
As for the restricted free agents, the list includes defencemen Jacob Trouba, Joe Morrow and Nathan Beaulieu, forwards Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Andrew Copp, and goaltender Laurent Brossoit. Trouba is the biggest mystery, having gone through salary arbitration last summer and with the possibility of doing it again if a new deal can't be reached.
"Same answer as always. I'll figure it out once things get going in the summer, what's best and move forward from there. We've got to sit down and kind of have a meeting and figure out what to do moving forward, so I haven't really thought about it. I tried to put it in the back of my mind as much as I could this year and just forget about it and we'll deal with it when the time comes," said Trouba, who played on a one-year, US$5.5-million deal.
If Trouba and his camp don't wish to sign a long-term extension, trading him this summer would seem to be the best option. Otherwise, the Jets risk losing him for nothing next season as a UFA.
Laine and Connor will be due big raises, with the only real question being whether they sign long-term extensions or shorter bridge deals.
"It's obviously a different position than I've ever been in. I'm sure the agent's going to have talks with the GM, so I'm just approaching a normal summer for me," said Connor.
"Not worried about that right now. Right now I want to forget everything that is involved with hockey. That’s something I’m not thinking about right now. I know I don’t have a contract (for next season) right now but there’s a lot of time before the next year. I’m not worried about the contract right now. Just trying to forget about hockey and focus on other stuff," said Laine.
Expect the big contracts to be the top priority before the remaining salary crumbs are dished out.
"It's an interesting process. We've got a lot of different guys that need deals, some guys that are going to be in line for some big raises," said Copp, who was then immediately nudged by linemate Adam Lowry on Monday.
"I'm not talking about my kind of raise, I'm talking about somebody else's," Copp added with a smile.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.