Dustin Byfuglien

Poll: What should the Jets do with Andrew Ladd?

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Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t only have to make a decision on what to do with Dustin Byfuglien, he also has to deal with the matter of his captain Andrew Ladd heading into the final year of his five-year, $22 million contract.

Ladd is coming off a season in which he scored 24 goals and a career-high 62 points while averaging 20:04 in ice time a night.

“Like everything, there’s lots of moving parts that come into play,” said Cheveldayoff of contract talks with Byfuglien and Ladd. “But we’ve had good conversations with the agents for both players.”

Ladd underwent sports hernia surgery in May and is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

“I’ve skated the last couple of weeks and I don’t have any ill effects,” he told NHL.com last week. “It’s been a different summer because I don’t usually take a whole lot of time off and I get back into it quickly. This was a slower start to the offseason, and I kind of (eased) my way into things, doing different stuff. But it’s feeling good, and I’m excited to be back on the ice.”

The 29-year-old, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, is likely in line for a raise on the $4.5 million he will make this season.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported last month that Ladd is seeking an extension “north of $6 million” annually, and “in the range of $40 million” overall.

For his part, Ladd appears committed to staying in Winnipeg and trying to win a Stanley Cup with the Jets.

“I think with the group we have, a lot of character guys in that room and no one that’s really satisfied, that’s what gets everybody excited, that we know what we have and the kind of people we have and we’re excited for the opportunity we have with that group,” Ladd said.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers

Under Pressure: Dustin Byfuglien

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Despite his $5.2 million cap hit, Dustin Byfuglien heads into this season as the highest paid member of the Winnipeg Jets taking home $6 million in salary and could hit the open market next July.

According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Byfuglien is looking for a long-term deal of more than $7 million per season as an unrestricted free agent.

If the 30-year-old is going to command those kinds of numbers from the Jets, or anyone else for that matter, he’ll need to prove he’s worth it.

Winnipeg was shorthanded a league-leading 308 times last season and Byfuglien was the face of the problem leading the way with 124 penalty minutes – good for seventh most in the entire league. It’s not exactly a category you want one of your leaders, and highest paid players, leading.

As the Jets were battling for a playoff spot in April, Byfuglien was suspended four games for his cross check on Rangers’ forward J.T. Miller.

His questionable play continued in the playoffs when he hit Corey Perry from behind following a goal.

Byfuglien certainly gives Paul Maurice options as he’s capable of playing both on defense and up front, but has been a liability on the back end, which led his former coach Claude Noel to use him as a forward in 2014. Even Maurice thought he was better suited there leaving him as a forward to start last season.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound blue liner’s inconsistent play and contract status coupled with the young talent the Jets have on the blue line (Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey) could make him expendable.

Byfuglien is under pressure to prove he should be paid the money he’s looking for in his new deal.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Report: ‘Nothing more than preliminary discussions’ between Jets, Byfuglien

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Here’s the latest from the Free Press on talks between Winnipeg and d-man Dustin Byfuglien, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent next July:

Byfuglien, like [Andrew] Ladd, is also a pending UFA at the send of next season. According to the player’s agent, nothing more than preliminary discussions regarding the big defenseman have taken place.

Ladd is the No. 1 priority and must be the first domino to fall.

It’s expected that Ladd, the team’s captain, will likely get his desired extension (the Free Press figures it’ll be “north of $6 million” annually, and “in the range of $40 million” overall.) At 29 and coming off a career-high 62 points, he’s vitally important to the Jets and looks to be paid accordingly.

Which brings us to Byfuglien.

Though he’s coming off a stellar campaign of his own — 45 points in 69 games, an All-Star nod — Byfuglien plays on one of the NHL’s deepest bluelines. Tyler Myers (25 years old) and Jacob Trouba (21) represent the future, while Tobias Enstrom and Mark Stuart are locked in through 2018. All told, the Jets currently have 10 blueliners on NHL deals — Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba, Enstrom, Stuart, Grant Clitsome, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot — and a pair of bright young prospects in Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek on the horizon.

So it’s fair to suggest something has to give.

Byfuglien’s heading into the last of a five-year, $26 million deal that pays $5.2M annually. Though he’s now officially on the wrong side of 30 — he’ll be 31 next March — Byfuglien likely still has high value across the league, and scored a handful of Norris votes this season.

So, the big question: If the Jets can’t afford to pay Byfuglien, especially after the Ladd extension, can they afford to let him hit free agency and lose an asset for nothing? GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already did that this summer with Michael Frolik, who flew the coop to sign in Calgary.

Can’t imagine Chevy wants that to happen again.

Crowded blueline: Jets ink Postma to two-year, $1.775M deal

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Having already re-upped with Adam Pardy and Ben Chiarot this summer, the Jets retained another depth defenseman on Friday by giving Paul Postma a two-year, $1.775 million extension.

The deal, which carries an $887,500 cap hit, comes after Postma appeared in a career-high 42 games last year, averaging 14:08 TOI per night. The 26-year-old was a lineup regular for the first three months of the season, but phased out in the second half of the campaign due to healthy scratches and a lower-body injury.

This extension puts Postma firmly back in the mix, however, and it’s a crowded mix…

Right now, there are 10 blueliners in the fold: Pardy, Chiarot, Postma, Trouba, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Mark Stuart, Jay Harrison and Grant Clitsome, who is coming off back surgery. While it’s not surprising to see Winnipeg stockpile bodies — injuries ravaged the defense last year — it’ll be interesting to see if the Jets can carry this many contracts, or if a trade will eventually be orchestrated.

Worth mentioning the Jets also have touted prospect Josh Morrissey, the 13th overall pick in 2013, on the horizon.