Published on August 20, 2013
In this Jan. 2, 2013 file photo, American defencemen Jacob Trouba (centre) and Seth Jones celebrate a goal with teammate John Gaudreau (left) while playing against the Czech Republic in the world junior hockey action in Ufa, Russia. Whether or not Trouba makes the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets this fall is one of the big questions being considered by fans of the St. John’s IceCaps, since the Jets’s star prospect would be headed this way if he doesn’t secure a big-league job.
Canadian Press file photo
Published on August 20, 2013
Checking out who is signed by the parent Jets and who might be left for St. John's
We’re in the midst of the annual August doldrums when it comes to the National Hockey League, when the biggest NHL news of the day might be, as it was Tuesday, Mark Fistric's signing with the Anaheim Ducks.
Same goes in the American Hockey League, although that will undergo a little bit of change shortly — perhaps by the end of the week — when the AHL releases its 2013-14 schedule.
Truth is, most NHL rosters — and AHL ones by some extension — are pretty much set by this time, with training camps about a month away.
The Winnipeg Jets, for example, have 21 players with one-way contracts. Toss in prized prospects forward Mark Scheifele and defenceman Jacob Trouba, and you would have the maximum 23-man roster permitted for NHL teams.
Scheifele and Trouba are both operating on entry-level, two-way contracts, but there is organizational hope, if not outright expectation, that one or both wil prove worthy of an NHL roster spot to start the season.
The eventual dispositions of Scheifele and Trouba are also of considerable interest in St. John’s, where the IceCaps are getting ready to start their third AHL season.
So here’s a look at players in the Jets/IceCaps organization, with some thoughts on what might be pertinent when trying to predict what the two teams might look like come early October:
The 21 players under one-way contracts with the Jets
Forwards (12): Michael Frolik, Oli Jokinen, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Anthony Peluso, Devin Setoguchi, Jim Slater, Eric Tangradi, Chris Thorburn, Blake Wheeler, James Wright
Defencemen (7): Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Grant Clitsome, Tobias Enstrom, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma, Mark Stuart
Goaltenders (2): Ondrej Pavelec, Al Montoya
Now, one-way contracts, as the Jets management is fond of asserting, are not a guarantees of NHL employment. But they are a pretty good gauge when sorting out who might be staying or going elsewhere.
However, those on one-ways with small (at least in NHL terms) salaries might be seen as having less job security, meaning you can consider many of those making less than $750,000 annually (Tangradi, Peluso, Postma, Pardy and Wright) as bubble players of a sort, with Wright, a solid defensive player, probably the safest, and all having whatever protection comes with being waiver-eligible.
Those with two-way and AHL deals
Setting aside the above-named 23, it leaves the following players under contract to either the Jets, with two-way pacts, or the IceCaps. (Those on AHL deals are shown in italics; without a contract with an NHL component, none can really be seen as being in contention for jobs with Winnipeg):
Forwards (17): John Albert, Austen Brassard, Yasin Cisse, Patrice Cormier, Andrew Gordon, Jason Jaffray, Jason King, Adam Lowry, Matt Halischuk, Carl Klingberg, Josh Lunden, Kael Mouillierat, Eric O’Dell, Blair Riley, Jerome Samson, Ryan Schnell, Ivan Telegin
Defencemen (5): Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori, Will O'Neill, Zach Redmond, Cody Sol
Goaltenders (3): Eddie Pasquale, Michael Hutchinson, Jussi Olkinuora
Taking it all into consideration, you might see:
• Tangradi, Peluso, Postma and Pardy as players on one-way contracts who are closest to the NHL-AHL dividing line, but definitely on the Jets’ side of the fence.
The same goes for Scheifele and Trouba.
On the AHL side of that wire: Cormier, Gordon, Halischuk, O’Dell, Redmond and Samson.
Particularly noteworthy in the latter group are Halischuk, who has appeared in 72 NHL big-league games with Nashville over the last two seasons, and Gordon, a Halifax native who spent half the 2011-12 campaign in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes.
• Holes at both the NHL and AHL levels.
Even if the IceCaps can expect a defenceman from Winnipeg after the battle for blueline jobs is sorted out there, it looks pretty thin on the back end at the AHL level. June draft pick Brenden Kichton, not yet signed, is in the mix, but there is an almost crying need for a veteran or two, with a right shot being a preference.,
In Winnipeg, Setoguchi joins Wheeler as the top two right-wingers. However, after that, it’s Thorburn, Tangradi, Peluso and Scheifele, if you have him there and not centre. Frolik can play the off wing and Little has played the right side, but he’s the Jets’ top centre. If Scheifele is not going to stick, this will probably be an area of need.
• Specific positional depth at both levels.
Winnipeg looks pretty solid on defence; Trouba showing he is NHL quality would be a real bonus.
The IceCaps, meanwhile, have a considerable number of forwards who are either AHL-proven or expected to be AHL-ready. And that’s even with doubts about whether veteran Jason King can come back from the concussion problems that limited him to nine games last season.
Don’t forget former Canadian junior player JC Lipon, like Kichton a Winnipeg draft pick from in June, but one who can turn pro this fall. Like Kichton, Lipon hasn’t officially signed a contract. There is also 2012 second-round draft pick Lukas Sutter, a big centre who could turn pro this season, but hasn't yet signed. Sutter can return to the WHL junior ranks as an overager.