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Jets Offseason Plans, Changes Expected to Target Better Defense

What kind of changes should fans expect for the Winnipeg Jets after sweeping the Oilers, then getting swept by the Canadiens?

It’s amazing how things can change over the course of one NHL playoff series. At first, the Winnipeg Jets were being applauded for how well they played collectively to shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in a four-game sweep over the Edmonton Oilers. Not even two weeks later, the Jets are being criticized for failing to stop the Montreal Canadiens in the same fashion. Now, insiders are suggesting the priority for the Jets this offseason is defense, defense, defense.

Related: Canadiens Sweep of Jets Means Scheifele to Miss Next Season’s Opener

Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski of ESPN took a look at some of the offseason questions the Winnipeg Jets are facing. How they’ll approach the NHL Expansion Draft and free agency were among them.

They write through seven games, the Jets ranked 14th of 16 teams in the playoffs in expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.75) at 5-on-5. They credit some of that to playing against McDavid and Draisaitl, but most to lousy team defense in front of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Suggesting they’ll protect defenseman Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and restricted free agent Neal Pionk in the Seattle expansion draft, it leaves RFA Logan Stanley exposed — Stanley scored Winnipeg’s two lone goals on Monday night.

Noting they also have prospects Dylan Samberg, 22, and Ville Heinola, 20, the Jets can choose to play those guys (and they probably should consider it) or find more stop-gap options like UFAs Tucker Poolman, Derek Forbort and Jordie Benn. They ask where players like Nathan Beaulieu and Sami Niku fit on this team and how the Jets will use the $14.9 million in cap space they have available?

Andrew Copp Winnipeg Jets
Andrew Copp Winnipeg Jets

As for pending forward free agents, Paul Stastny is 35 and the team might look at a lower-cost one-year deal. Mathieu Perreault is 33 and is still offering value for the ice time he gets. Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis are low-cost depth options but are defensively responsible forwards.

What About Off-Ice Changes?

Sportsnet’s Ken Weibe doesn’t believe the jobs for head coach Paul Maurice or general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff are in jeopardy but that they need better players in order to compete next season. Much of the reason the Jets have struggled on their blue line is not the fault of the GM. It wasn’t expected that the once strong core would be gone just a year later and the team would need to rebuild it, nearly from scratch, but the departure of Dustin Byfuglien really threw this team for a loop.

There is a rumor that Maurice might like to have a reunion with Ron Francis in Seattle but Maurice is also in the first year of a $3 million per season contract extension. That wouldn’t be easy to leave.

Next: Has the Maple Leafs’ William Nylander Turned the Corner?



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