The Winnipeg Jets enter their most critical season since their relocation from Atlanta in 2011. Counting their final seasons as the Thrashers, the Jets haven't made the playoffs since 2007. The honeymoon period is over in Winnipeg, as fans and media grow impatient waiting for the Jets to become contenders.
Apart from a coaching change midway through last season and signing third-line center Mathieu Perreault, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff responded to off-season calls for change by standing pat and preaching patience.
Left winger Evander Kane and defenseman/winger Dustin Byfuglien were frequently subject to trade speculation this summer. THN.com's Rory Boylen recently listed Kane among his top 10 trade candidates for the upcoming season, while Byfuglien made SI.com's Allan Muir's list.
Of the pair, Kane has the most trade value. TSN's Bob McKenzie believes the Jets examined their trade options for the 23-year-old this summer, citing the Philadelphia Flyers among those with interest. He feels Kane and the Jets must determine this season if the winger can be happy and productive in Winnipeg.
Byfuglien has also been linked to the Flyers in the past. Given the additions of Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto, along with their limited cap space, it's unlikely they'll seriously pursue him now. Like Kane, performance will determine if Byfuglien has a future beyond this season with the Jets.
Goaltending is also an area of concern. Ondrej Pavelec's struggles last season generated rumors tying the Jets to Toronto Maple Leafs goalie (and Manitoba native) James Reimer. Cheveldayoff, however, remains convinced Pavelec can become a reliable starting goaltender. He'll also look to promising Michael Hutchinson to fill the backup role. If both struggle early, Cheveldayoff could be forced to shop around for help between the pipes.
BLUE JACKETS STANDING PAT WITH JOHANSEN
The contract standoff between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen drags on. The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, made a new proposal for two years at $9.4 million, or $4.7-million annually. A gap of $1.7 million per season still exists between the two sides, leading Portzline to speculate the Blue Jackets won't renew talks until Overhardt drops the asking price to $4-million annually.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wonders if Overhardt structured his proposal to be worth close to the Jackets' price in the first season, then rising significantly in the second season. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports it's believed Overhardt's offer is worth $9.5 million, paying his client $3.5 million in Year 1 and $6 million in the second year.
Under that set-up, the Blue Jackets must base their qualifying offer to retain his rights off his actual base salary, not his cap hit. Overhardt could also use that figure as a basis to negotiate a substantial raise for Johansen, who will also become eligible for arbitration. Don't expect the Blue Jackets to entertain any proposal paying Johansen more in actual salary in the second year. Their offer remains a two-year deal worth $3 million per season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.