Winnipeg crept into the playoffs last year for the first time since their return to the Canadian city, so they will be spending this offseason looking for ways to shore both sides of the ice to make an even deeper postseason run during the next campaign. This will be a tough prospect, particularly given the likes of Los Angeles and Dallas being hungry to return to the playoffs, but the Jets do appear to be making strides towards retaining their competitive edge.
While their first round defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks was a sweep, there are some hopeful signs to take moving forward. Their offense held their own, and the defense was largely able to contain the Ducks prolific goal scoring through two periods. They simply ran out of gas towards the end, which highlights an issue of depth. This offseason must be spent shorting up some key areas to ensure that the team can go deeper into games, and that their legs will hold up come time for the playoffs next April.
Graphic via winnipegfreepress
On offense, Andrew Ladd has a breakout season for the Jets during the 2014/2015 campaign. He scored 24 goals and assisted on 38 others, resulting in a respectable 62 points. He is also a veteran on and off the ice, and it exactly what the team needs, as he is the captain, to move to the next level. They also retain Blake Wheeler, who is a forward that added 61 points for the Jets last season, and should be one of their top scorers during the next as well. What the Jets need now are a few other complementary players on offense that can help fill in some gaps and take the pressure off the skates of Ladd and Wheeler.
One of the bright spots for the Jets this offseason is actually from a financial perspective, as they have roughly $23 million is free cap space. Naturally, being a small market franchise, they may not be able to attract some of the top free agents, but they should certainly be attractive enough to sign some quality young players on both the offensive and defensive end of things. Having retained one of the more solid goaltenders in the NHL, the focus should be on young talent moving forward, along with another veteran defensemen or two.
Winnipeg has long demonstrated that it is patient and willing to wait for just the right player to come along. They do, however, need to move a bit quicker to attract talent this offseason if they are going to move from barely making the playoffs to actually becoming a Stanley Cup contender. They do have three quality young prospects that should mature into their NHL roles in the coming years. These players are Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, and Nic Petan. They have a good squad guaranteed to come back next season, and a great deal of salary room to use the remainder of the offseason to plug those holes previously talked about. If they do, then fans north of border will have a great deal to be happy come next season.
Graphic via rantsports