This season was expected to be one where the Jets took a bit of a step back. While they were only a year removed from nearly winning the Central Division, their back end underwent quite the overhaul as several regulars moved on with minimal replacements added for cap reasons while another didn’t play for them at all before his contract was terminated in-season. They used a hot streak down the stretch to have themselves in the battle for a playoff spot before the pandemic hit before being ousted by Calgary in the play-in series. Now, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some flexibility to work with this offseason (but a lot of roster spots to fill). Here is what he should be looking to accomplish.
Restock The D
No team took as big of a hit on their back end as Winnipeg did between last season and this one. Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers moved on via free agency, Jacob Trouba was traded, and Dustin Byfuglien briefly reported to camp, left, and didn’t come back. The only current NHL asset they received for any of those defenders was Neal Pionk. While the 25-year-old had a career year for the Jets, this was still a significant step backwards. The team had to turn to the waiver wire to stay afloat and the results were predictable as Connor Hellebuyck faced the most shots of any goaltender in the league this season.
Only three regulars are signed for next season and one of those (Tucker Poolman) played a limited role this year. Cheveldayoff will need to work to add at least one top-four option to take some pressure off Pionk and Josh Morrissey. Youngster Ville Heinola showed some promise in an early-season look but while he has the upside to get to that level down the road, that won’t come in 2020-21.
If they’re unable to afford a blueliner of that quality, then restocking the cupboards with quality depth options is a good way to go.