The Winnipeg Jets unveiled their opening-day roster on Wednesday ahead of Thursday night’s home tilt with the Calgary Flames, revealing the list of players currently on the active lineup. But don’t get too married to the group — changes are coming.
For example, the Jets issued a press release shortly after 11 a.m. stating they will start the season with two goaltenders, seven defenceman and 12 forwards, for a total of 21 players. That increased to 22 when Winnipeg announced it had signed veteran forward Trevor Lewis to a one-year, US$750,000 deal.
Lewis, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings, was here on a professional tryout and impressed the coaching staff with his energy. He’s expected to play on the fourth line with Nate Thompson at centre and Mathieu Perreault on the wing.
Speaking of Perreault, he was one of five players assigned to the new taxi squad — a group of four to six additional players to help with the uncertainty of COVID-19 — joining forward David Gustafsson, defencemen Logan Stanley and Dylan Samberg and goalie Mikhail Berdin.
But Perreault is only on the taxi squad for salary-cap reasons, as the Jets worked to maximize their money. That included putting Bryan Little on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) — a move the Jets have also done with forward Dominic Toninato, who failed his training camp physical — and then moving Perreault back onto the active roster.
It can be enough make one’s head spin. But Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff did his best to explain.
“There’s a lot of fluidity still. The rosters were put in (Tuesday) and the league basically goes through a forensic accounting-type procedure to make sure what you’re submitting is cap-compliant. And there’s different steps that go along the way,” Cheveldayoff said Wednesday.
“You make different roster transactions as you go to get as close to the cap as you possibly can. Some of that means sending players to different places. Obviously this year we have a taxi squad situation that we’ve never had before. So (Wednesday), what transpired here, we put Bryan Little on LTIR. And later this afternoon we’ll be announcing that we’ve agreed to terms with Trevor Lewis. All these things have to happen in sequence, and those are the different procedures that go into play. There’s going to be lots of different movement there, and there’s going to be some additional movement between now and tomorrow. The transactions will happen as they need to.”
He added: “Once you’re in LTIR, you’re not going to be below that threshold of $81.5, you’re not going to be accruing any cap space. So when we put Bryan Little’s US$5.2 million on LTIR, that should essentially be the space that we have moving forward. But it doesn’t grow. What that cap space is you can replace or add players up until that number. So if we want to run 23 we can keep 23, if we want to run 21 or 20 we can.”
The taxi squad will also likely see a makeover in the coming days or weeks, depending on the Jets’ needs. Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice want to see the team’s young players develop and the only way that can happen is if they see notable ice time.
So it makes sense that Stanley and Samberg, who are 22 and 21 years old, respectively, would eventually be moved from the taxi squad to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. The AHL, which will have the exact same COVID-19 protocols as the NHL, is expected to begin play by Feb. 5.
Cheveldayoff said he expects to see turnover with this group, which should be made easier with the safety protocols and the fact the team runs out of the same building. But the Jets GM is also acutely aware that with an extraordinarily different season ahead of him, there will be challenges and the need to adapt to all the curveballs inevitably thrown his way.
“You saw it (Tuesday) with respect to the waiver claims, with respect to transitioning players across borders and having quarantines, and planning for that. Simply just calling a guy up when you’re on the road somewhere, it’s going to matter whether he travels commercially or whether he’s going to travel on a charter, because if he travels commercially he’s potentially unavailable to you. So a lot of logistical things there and that’s on the roster side,” he said.
“On the planning side, it’s very difficult to know exactly where things may or may not go with the draft, from an amateur scouting perspective and building your franchise for the future. You’re certainly concerned when it comes to the draft and being able to evaluate and make proper decisions, because those have long and far-reaching effects. Plus, you learn a lot about protocols. And then they’ll change. So you have to then spend the time to go back over all those protocols and make sure as an organization you’re compliant.”
Defencemen Ville Heinola and Nelson Nogier and forwards Cole Perfetti and C.J. Suess have been assigned to the Moose.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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