Free Agent Frenzy

Many questions have been asked of us the past week about who the Jets will target and if they’ll have a chance at signing Brad Richards. The quick and simple answer is maybe one top 6 forward and the rest will be roll and depth players and no Brad Richards will not be taking up residency in Winnipeg come September.

First lets look at Richards, it’s not that the Jets wouldn’t want him or that he wouldn’t want to come to Winnipeg because it’s too cold. He will not be targeted by Chevy because he doesn’t fit into the master plan to build from within and then spend money. Signing him to a contract will likely come at a cost of at least a $7 million cap hit and that’s something that Winnipeg will not take on this year. That’s not to say that if this was three years down the road and the prospects had started developing and this team was a cup competitor that Chimpan and company won’t open their check books to help bring the cup to Winnipeg. The reality is we’re not there yet so putting that type of investment into a player like Richards does not make sense for Winnipeg, nor for Brad Richards.

Winnipeg will target and go after the guys like a Vernon Fiddler who can do a lot of things well but nothing spectacular which translates into an excellent depth/role player that can give depth at Centre and kill penaties. That will be the type of player you see Winnipeg go after.

If players come at a bargain price anyone could be in play but this is an ownership and management group committed to building through the draft and they will use free agency to supplement and add a piece or two, not build off of so we’re not sorry to say this will be a process that will take 2-3 years at minimum but once that time has passed and the key elements of the team has been locked up this will be a very young and talented team that will make noise in the NHL playoffs.

Don’t expect any long term deals handed out to any unrestricted free agents, the players signed by the Jets on or after July 1st will be there to help develop and teach the young players, not to win the cup yet. Character, work ethic and cap flexibility will be the three biggest elements in any player the Jets sign. The only players that could receive long term deals from the Jets are Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler. Other than that with a potential new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated for the 2012-13 season TNSE will not allow any player star or not to hand cuff this organization and put them into a hole like former Thrasher Ilya Kovaluchuk has done in New Jersey.

Teemu Selanne is a player many teams would love to add and Winnipeg would sign him if given the opportunity to add him on a one or two year deal at a reasonable rate but let’s face the facts. If the Finnish Flash plays in Winnipeg again it’ll be as an Anaheim Duck. He’s either retiring or resigning in Anaheim so lets hope he resigns there and we get to see him in Winnipeg one last time.

Here’s a list of players that we feel Winnipeg will target.

Ian White (Likely a stretch but home town discount could be a factor)
Chris Higgins
John Madden
Brendan Morrison
Nolan Baumgartner (Minor League Deal)
Alexandre Bolduc
Vernon Fiddler
Maxime Talbot
Cam Barker

Looking at Winnipeg’s roster and depth they’re primary needs are centerman and third/forth line players. There could be room for a defenceman but the main targeted players will be guys who can either add depth down the middle and take on a top six role perhaps or third and forth line players and that’s exactly what the guys above will give you. Madden or Morrison would give you a very flexible player that can take on a checking role while still winning draws and providing some offence and the ability to kill penalties. Higgins could slide into a top six role but could also add depth on the wings on the third line.

Barker and White could both relish the chance to play at home and may want to come here at a reduced rate and while Barker was bought out by Minnesota if his cost is low the risk/reward could be too good to pass up.

Talbot, Fiddler and Bolduc would all add more scoring punch to weak third and forth lines and Baumgartner would be an excellent role model in St. John’s.

While all the above is pure speculation we know anything is possible come July 1st. We’ll provide you with a recap of players the Jets do sign and how we see them fitting into the team after the frenzy has ended. Until then make sure to follow us on Twitter for updates when players are signed.

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.