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Friday, 26 July 2013

RFAs Falling Into Place

There was a lot of chatter when free agency opened about who the Jets should try to land as their second-line center. While that chatter is still prevalent in Winnipeg, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made it clear that he had a pile of work to do in trying to re-sign the dozen-or-so restricted free agents that the Jets wanted back. With the exception of Eric Bogosian at this point, Cheveldayoff has done exactly what he indicated he would do, bringing back the likes of Wheeler and Little to give his lineup some continuity for the next few seasons. While fans may still want someone to anchor the second line at the center position, the Jets have their top line secured for future thanks to the work done by the players and the general manager.

While it appears that Mikhail Grabovski is no longer considering the Jets to be a suitor for his services, the fact that the Jets have both Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler under contract for the upcoming season bodes well for a team that was slightly anemic offensively on occasion last season. Both players were part of a good unit last season, and should help the Jets be competitive in a tough Central Division this year. Power forwards like Wheeler are valuable commodities in the NHL, and you can never have too many play-making centermen like Bryan Little.

The Jets, for all the complaining I have done on missing out on key free agents, have positioned themselves nicely for the future by not overpaying for the talent they currently have, and by not throwing wads of cash at free agents who may not make the team better. They have some excellent talent to compliment their top line this season as they have brought in the likes of Setoguchi and Frolik to add to the second and third lines. With players like Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Lukas Sutter, Josh Morrissey, and Jacob Trouba all developing at excellent rates, the Jets might be two or three years out from having a fantastic offensive team.

I, like the Jets, believe that Scheifele will come into camp this season and have a spectacular time. His work in Barrie last season with former Jets captain Dale Hawerchuk showed why he's one of the best players in the junior game, and the step to the pro game should challenge him to continue to grow. It also doesn't hurt that his work this off-season is adding both weight and strength to his frame - something a lot of Jets fans said he could use.
Bigger and faster is what the Jets need down the middle with the likes of Little, Jokinen, and Slater under contract. Little and Slater are smaller guys, and Jokinen simply has no wheels. If Scheifele can come into camp and play hard, expect to see him in a lot of situations. He has the ability from all that I've read and heard, but it's up to Scheifele to put it all together now.

The Jets appear to be on-track for an improvement last season barring any unforeseen catastrophic injuries. They are playing in a tough division, but it appears the management of the Jets is asking only one thing of the Jets this season: raise your game. And that's a reasonable demand.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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