Tag: Winnipeg Jets


Under Pressure: Dustin Byfuglien


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

Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers

Martin Gernat, Nikolaj Ehlers

After averaging nearly two points per-game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers is hoping to make the leap to the NHL this season.

The 5-foot-11, 176-pound forward scored 37 goals and 101 points in 51 games with the Halifax Mooseheads last season. He added 10 goals and 21 assists in 14 playoff games prior to being called up by the Winnipeg Jets in April.

Ehlers also represented Denmark at the world juniors scoring a goal and three assists in five games.

“I feel like over the last year in Halifax, I really improved on some details on and off the ice. I think I’m going to come (to training camp) as a better player and bigger,” Ehlers said at the Jets’ prospects camp in July. “I want to make the team this year and obviously I’ve got to work hard for that.”

The 19-year-old is also realistic of his chances of playing for the Jets next season.

“It’s going to be tough coming back here and trying to get that one spot on the team,” he said. “But there’s lot of excitement and I think that on the ice there’s a lot of things that I can improve on.”

If he doesn’t crack the Jets’ opening night roster, he would have to be returned to junior because he is not old enough to play in the American Hockey League.

However, Ehlers could have a second option, if he is unable to make the leap to the NHL this season.

The Jets’ 2014 first-round pick told news agency Sportinformation last week that he’s considering spending the 2015-16 season in Europe.

“I honestly do not think about this now,” he said. “But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I’m not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”

After recording 205 points in 114 QMJHL games over two seasons, returning Ehlers to junior doesn’t seem like the best move for his development. The Dane will certainly be one to watch at next month’s camp in Winnipeg.

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three

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.