Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
Recently, it was reported that the Jets and Stafford were working on a contract extension. No surprise there, after the 29-year-old was traded from Buffalo to Winnipeg and proceeded, according to Jets coach Paul Maurice, to make a “huge impact.”
Stafford finished with nine goals and 10 assists in 26 games for the Jets, an 82-game pace of 28 goals and 32 assists. Even in a limited sample, it reminded everyone that Stafford once scored 31 goals in 62 games for the Sabres.
Still, there are those who think the Jets should move on, perhaps in favor of top prospect Nikolaj Ehlers. Winnipeg also has to be mindful of its spending, considering Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd can become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Which takes us nicely into these tweets, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
Besides Stafford, the Jets’ other UFA forwards include Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty, Jim Slater and Lee Stempniak.
Click here for more UFAs.
Nikolaj Ehlers, taken ninth overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Jets, is reportedly on his way to Winnipeg, where he’ll join the big club — but won’t be in the lineup for tonight’s elimination Game 4 against the Ducks.
The 19-year-old Dane just finished his year with QMJHL Halifax, getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs. It ended what was an otherwise stellar second season in the Q; Ehlers scored 101 points in just 51 regular season games and continued to light it up in the postseason, scoring 31 points in 14 games.
There are some clamoring for Ehlers to go straight into the lineup, and it would make some sense as the Jets have scored just seven goals against Anaheim, four of those coming in Game 3. The club has also gotten little in the way of production from Andrew Ladd, Jiri Tlusty, Michael Frolik, Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele, all of whom are without a goal this series.
That said, throwing Ehlers into the mix would be a pretty bold move. Aside from never having played in the NHL before, Ehlers is relatively small (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and this has been a brutally physical series.
Winnipeg started strong against Vancouver tonight, but the Canucks rallied back to earn a 5-2 victory in a game with substantial playoff implications.
Winnipeg’s Jiri Tlusty and Blake Wheeler scored the first two goals of the game to put the Jets in a position to win their sixth straight contest. However, Canucks forward Chris Higgins turned the tide at 10:57 of the second period with his 10th goal of the season. Towards the end of the frame, Radim Vrbata outmaneuvered Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson for what would become the game-winning goal:
The Jets yanked Hutchinson for the final minute of the third period, but the desperation move didn’t pay off as Henrik Sedin and Vrbata helped themselves to empty-net markers. With two goals tonight, Vrbata is tied for 10th in the NHL with 29 markers. Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists, giving him 65 points in 73 games this season.
“There’s something about this team. We’re able to come back,” goaltender Eddie Lack noted, per the team’s Twitter feed.
The Canucks have to 43-26-4 this season. That gives them a four-point cushion over the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings as the Canucks fight to not only to make the playoffs, but also secure the home-ice advantage for the first round. Winnipeg is still in a decent spot as far as the Wild Card race goes with a 38-24-12 record, but the Jets could have certainly used a win tonight given that their next three games will be against Montreal, Chicago, and the New York Rangers.