The Winnipeg Jets find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the post-season, with a 25-29-4 record. That puts them in sixth place in the Central Division, currently tied with the Dallas Stars and six points behind the Los Angeles Kings for one of those juicy wild card spots.
The Jets dropped a critical game to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, but they’ll face the Stars on Tuesday and could really use a win.
They could also really use a chance to slip their goal differential around, having scored an impressive 166 goals for but having allowed a dismal 185 goals against. In most scenarios, their offensive prowess would be enough to vault them to a solid record. In 2016-2017, however, it hasn’t been sufficient and the Jets have stumbled despite scoring more goals than most playoff-bound teams in their conference.
The goal differential highlights the most obvious need in the Winnipeg camp: goaltending.
The Jets have some decent cap space, with an estimated $25.4 million available. But pending unrestricted free agents include the likes of Drew Stafford, Paul Postma, Chris Thornburn, and goalie Ondrej Pavelec. RFAs Marko Dano, Andrew Coop, Brandon Tanev, Connor Hellebuyck, and Ben Chiarot will also have to be addressed.
Winnipeg has a few attractive targets to shoot for, including Tampa’s Ben Bishop and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. Both netminders are theoretically available and both would give fortunes in the Peg a significant uptick.
Fleury has been at the centre of trade rumours for some time now and things may have finally come to a head in Pittsburgh. Back in December, the Stars were said to be angling for his services. And expectations have long been that the Penguins will try to move Fleury before March 1 on account of trying to protect Matt Murray, which means he’ll have to waive his no-movement clause.
Bishop has been the subject of similar rumours, what with his pending UFA status causing a Stamkos-like wrinkle in Tampa. But the goalie hasn’t been the focus of similar contract talks and general manager Steve Yzerman doesn’t seem overly adamant with respect to keeping the 30-year-old in the fold.
Winnipeg has some trade chips to play here, with Stafford at the top of the list. He has the experience and capacity to make for an attractive addition. Pavelec could go as well, but it’s hard to imagine a workable goalie-for-goalie swap.
Last year, the Jets traded captain Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks just four days ahead of the trade deadline. General manager Kevin Chevaldayoff isn’t above making big moves close to March 1, so watch this space for more information if and/or when Winnipeg pulls the trigger on a deal.