Jets dipping into free agent pool?

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Provided the Winnipeg Jets stay the course they have charted for themselves -- and we expect they will -- their first dip into the unrestricted free agent pool won't exactly be earth shattering.

However, that doesn't mean they won't be taking a long, hard look into the windows and checking out the price tags on some of those mid-range items.

Brad Richards certainly won't factor into the plans, but there is room to add a Top-6 forward and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and director of hockey operations Craig Heisinger have made it clear they need to augment the talent level up front.

With that in mind, here are 10 players who could fit the mould of a player the Jets might be interested in after free agency opens at 11 a.m. CT on Friday:

1) C Maxime Talbot (Pittsburgh Penguins) - He's a heart-and-soul guy who has won a Stanley Cup and is a popular teammate. Would bring some size and grit to third line. Said to be looking for a four-year deal for around $2 million per. Most likely he stays with Penguins or signs with Tampa Bay Lightning to be reunited with his former junior coach Guy Boucher.

2) RW Joel Ward (Nashville Predators) - The former CIS player worked his way to the NHL through the NHL and just had an outstanding playoff that saw him score seven goals and 13 points in 12 games after producing 10 goals and 29 points during the regular season.

3) LW Sean Bergenheim (Tampa Bay Lightning) - Let's start by saying that it's unlikely the John Druce of the 2011 playoffs ends up here, but if he comes at a decent price, the New York Islanders first round pick (22nd overall) in 2002, might be a good fit in the Jets top-6 forwards. He had 14 goals and 29 points in 80 games and added nine goals and 11 points in 16 playoff games, so he can produce. Likely to stay put but worth investigating.

4) LW Chris Higgins (Vancouver Canucks) - A smart pickup at the NHL trade deadline by general manager Mike Gillis in February, he found a home on the second line with Ryan Kesler. If he's willing to take less to play for a contender, he'll stay. But he has produced before and could draw interest at a reasonable salary.

5) D Jonathan Ericsson (Detroit Red Wings) - Both Heisinger and Cheveldayoff saw plenty of the Swedish blue-liner when he was with the Grand Rapids Griffins and he's a guy who could flourish with additional ice time. Has size and is a strong skater.

6) RW Cody McCormick (Buffalo Sabres) - Brings a nice combination of size with speed, plus has a willingness to drop the gloves. Had eight goals, 20 points and 142 penalty minutes last season. Would bring toughness and an ability to chip in offensively.

7) C Adam Hall (Tampa Bay Lightning) - A solid bottom six forward who can kill penalties, take the body and win draws. Has ample playoff experience as well.

8) C Vernon Fiddler (Phoneix Coyotes) - A smart checker who can kill penalties and is strong in the face-off circle. Won a Calder Cup with Claude Noel with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004 and produced six goals and 22 points in 71 games last season.

9) RW Rick Rypien (Manitoba Moose/Vancouver Canucks) - The pride of Coleman, Alta. got the help he needed away from the rink and then came back and made an impression with the Moose during the stretch drive and into the playoffs. He got his start with this organization and would like to continue his comeback with them. Brings speed, physical play and plenty of grit.

10) D Shane Hnidy (Boston Bruins) - The pride of Neepawa came back from a horrific shoulder injury to win his first Stanley Cup this spring. He's a veteran presence who is familiar with the Atlanta Thrashers organization. A good glue guy.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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