Heading into the 2021-22 season, there was plenty of excitement regarding this Winnipeg Jets club given the amount of talent on their roster. Despite that talent however, their season has been very tumultuous and disappointing to say the least. Sensing the team needed a new voice, head coach Paul Maurice chose to resign just over a month ago, but the teams play has remained inconsistent. At the time of writing this, they find themselves four points behind the San Jose Sharks for the final wild card position in the Western Conference.
The good news is that with the amount of star power this Jets team has, they should be able to figure things out and play their way back into a playoff spot. However, there is no denying that there are still some issues on this roster, ones which general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will need to fix prior to the 2022-23 season. It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do, especially given the fact that he has several players without contracts in place after the 2021-22 campaign. In order to improve this team, here are three he needs to let walk.
When healthy, Paul Stastny has been a good player for the Jets this season, registering eight goals and 16 points through 24 contests. The 36-year-old has been a dependable centerman for a long time in the NHL, and is still playing at a very high level given his age. However, a decline is bound to happen sooner or later, and the Jets would be better to let him walk this offseason and use that money to resign key players like Andrew Copp and perhaps improve on other areas in free agency.
There are several players the Jets have who could replace Stastny next season, with the most notable being Cole Perfetti. Given the fact that Stastny is continuing to put up solid numbers means that while he will likely be forced to sign a short-term deal, he should still command a reasonable dollar value, making him too expensive of an option for the Jets to bring back.
Though Nathan Beaulieu has been a part of the Jets since the midway point of the 2018-19 season, he has played in just 97 games for them. Plenty of that is to do with injury, though much is also performance related, as he has been healthy scratched often this season.
In the 16 games he has suited up for in 2021-22, it is very evident his coaching staff doesn’t have much trust at all in him, as he is averaging just 8:48 time on ice. In his 97 games as a Jet, he has just 15 points, and hasn’t been particularly great defensively either. This will without a doubt be his final season in Winnipeg, and could very well be the last of his NHL career.
During the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jansen Harkins scored his first ever playoff goal in the NHL. That in itself was a big moment for him, but perhaps even more special was the rave reviews he got from Maurice after the game.
It was clear that Maurice was a big fan of the 24-year-old’s game, but the issue is Maurice is no longer around. Harkins is a very hard-working player and is solid defensively, but provides zilch in the offensive department. In 89 career NHL games, he has scored just six goals and 15 points, which simply isn’t enough to warrant a regular spot in the lineup. Given that he is a restricted free agent, there is a slightly better chance he is brought back than the two above, but the Jets would be wise to move on here.
Bigger Changes Could Be Coming
Many are still confident that this Jets team will get things turned around in the near future. However, if they miss the playoffs all together this season, there could, and likely will, be some serious changes in Winnipeg. It will be interesting to see what they do come trade deadline time if they find themselves in a similar position in the standings as they are now.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.
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