Winnipeg Jets: Analyzing the Jets' Current UFA Situation

Anthony Capocci@CapocciJETSContributor IMarch 19, 2013

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 16:  Nik Antropov #80 of the Winnipeg Jets bears down on James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the shootout in a game on March 16, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Jets defeated the Leafs 5-4 in an overtime shootout. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets have already made a few minor trades throughout the course of the season. It won’t be the least bit surprising to see them make at least one more before the April 3 trade deadline.

With time winding down in the shortened campaign, the Jets have some unrestricted free agents (UFAs) who they’ll have to decide on. Do they keep them, or do they trade them?

In the coming days, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has to make some important decisions on the trade front.

Certainly, the mindset is changed when you’re tied for first place in your division with just 19 games remaining in the regular season. The Jets are in prime position to make the playoffs. It’s the closest that this franchise has been to the playoffs since the last time that they actually made it as the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07.

With that being said, do the Jets go ahead and trade away some of their UFAs, or do they keep them as they make a run for the playoffs?

It could go either way with the scenario that the Jets are in now. The following roster players are UFAs after the end of this season: Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Antti Miettinen, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome, Derek Meech and Al Montoya. 

Obviously, one of the first things that come to mind is the value of return on some of these players. Some of them, at best, will fetch you a seventh-round draft pick. In that case, it’s probably pointless to even consider a trade.

However, some of them should fetch you much more than a late-round draft pick. In other words, some of these players are more appealing to GMs around the league than others. Three of those players are Antropov, Wellwood and Hainsey.

Antropov and Wellwood seem to be key pieces to the Jets' playoff run, so trading them is probably unlikely at this point, but it can’t be counted out. Hainsey seems to be the more expendable option with the stockpile that the Jets have on defense, but even he brings leadership and a veteran presence.

Each of the three could probably fetch at least a fourth-round draft pick. When we’re talking high draft picks, it might not be such a bad idea to pull the trigger. The Jets would love to add even more draft picks for this coming NHL draft in June.

If the Jets are serious for a playoff push, they’re probably going to need roster room anyway in case they actually become buyers. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that the Jets are buyers…and sellers. The old saying, “if the price is right…,” will probably decide which happens first.

But back to the UFA situation. While some are vital to a playoff push now, others can be replaced by someone else already on the roster.

Take Hainsey, for example. Sure, he’s a veteran presence, but will fans really notice a major difference if Arturs Kulda replaces him? Dare I say, the Jets might even be better off with Kulda’s defensive abilities.

The fact of the matter is, how many, if any, of these expiring contracts will be re-signed come next season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Jets let all of their UFAs walk. But what’s even more important than that is how these players contribute now.

If these players contribute to a playoff run, keeping them is obviously the better idea. However, if the Jets feel that they can still make the playoffs without one, then they should have no problems moving one.