WINNIPEG - There will come a time during the next few weeks when Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets hockey operations department decides whether they will be in the business of buying or selling leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 27.
The chances of it being the latter and not the former is where the smart money currently resides.
The Jets will be open for business, but letís be perfectly clear ó nobody is expecting a fire sale and Cheveldayoff isnít going to be giving players away just for the sake of making changes.
The Jets are also unlikely to be among those in the market looking to acquire rental players or those who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.
Nor is it likely theyíll be involved in a blockbuster, though itís always possible something might come up that would help the Jets both for the present and future.
The cold, hard truth is that the Jets inherited the majority of the players on this roster and that this inaugural season of the Jets 2.0 version has basically been an open audition from the onset.
It was basically a foregone conclusion that the Jets biggest issue would be scoring goals and thatís proven to be the case.
Pure snipers donít exactly grow on trees ó theyíre usually found with a high draft pick, a shrewd trade or a high-priced free agent pick-up, though occasionally they can come from a late bloomer or a calculated waiver claim.
Regardless of which route they pursue, itís clear the Jets will be looking for a few more goal scorers going forward.
That wish list will also include several gritty forwards.
The Jets currently sit 21-20-5 overall, are 2-6 in January and in the midst of dealing with their biggest crisis of the season to date.
With four games before the All-star break, can the Jets send management a signal this group has what it takes to stay in the race in the Eastern Conference?
By the middle of February, Cheveldayoff should know for sure.
Either way, we expect heíll be taking a lot of calls from other NHL general managers in the coming weeks.
The other fascinating thing to consider is that the Jets roster currently includes eight pending unrestricted free agents and another four restricted free agents, which leaves the door open for considerable turnover in 2012-13.
Many of the pending UFAs ó including goalie Chris Mason, forwards Jim Slater, Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood and defenceman Johnny Oduya ó could draw some interest on the open market, if available.
However, several of those pending free agents are candidates to be given contract extensions or be brought back on new deals this summer, so not all of them will be moved.
Those players who are off to new destinations will fetch some combination of prospects, draft picks or players that could step into the mix right now and help the team moving forward.
With that in mind, itís clear that how Cheveldayoff handles his first trade deadline in charge of an NHL club is certain to have a major impact on this franchise as it moves forward.
WINNIPEG JETS FREE AGENTS
The following is a list of Winnipeg Jets players who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, with our take on who should be re-signed:
1. G Chris Mason ($1,850,000) Prognosis: Solid veteran and member of leadership group would be perfect guy to serve as Ondrej Pavelecís back-up for another season as 20-year-old Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel gains a little more experience in Europe or the minors.
2. C Jim Slater ($1,000,000) Prognosis: Heart-and-soul player and one of the top face-off men on the club. Jets would be wise to offer him an extension.
3. LW Tanner Glass ($750,000) Prognosis: Gritty forward is enjoying a breakout season offensively, while continuing to provide energy and drop the gloves when the situation warrants it. Another candidate for an extension.
4. F Kyle Wellwood ($700,000) Prognosis: Following a strong offensive start, the crafty forward has seen his production drop. High hockey intellect but a strong candidate to be moved at the deadline. Unlikely to be back next season.
5. D Johnny Oduya ($3,500,000) Prognosis: Has experience and has spent much of the season on one of the top two pairings, so he should draw plenty of interest in the trade market if the Jets donít plan to re-sign him for a little less than he currently makes.
6. D Randy Jones ($1,115,000) Prognosis: Itís been an injury-plagued season for a guy who was brought in to provide some depth on the back end. Unlikely to return next season, so he could be moved.
7. D Mark Flood ($525,000) Prognosis: After taking advantage of some injuries to work his way into the rotation, the Jets donít want to risk losing him on waivers. Could be extended or re-signed this summer.
8. D Derek Meech ($700,000) Prognosis: Nearing a return from knee surgery. Limited to two games this season but a strong depth player with local ties. Candidate to re-sign on a two-way deal.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
1. G Ondrej Pavelec ($1,150,000) Prognosis: The undisputed starter is going to receive a big raise during the off-season and it will be interesting to see the term and salary the two sides agree on.
2. LW Evander Kane ($3,100,000) Prognosis: With just under half a season to go, the power forward is closing in on career highs for goals and points. Heís due for a raise and his contract negotiations could be very, very interesting.
3. RW Eric Fehr ($2,200,000) Prognosis: Slowed by a shoulder issue, the Winkler product is playing better of late but it hasnít translated into much offensive production. Would like to return, but would likely need to sign for less for that to happen.
4. D Paul Postma ($875,000) Prognosis: The offensive blue-liner is making strides in the minors under the guidance of Keith McCambridge. Heíll require waivers next season, so heís likely to be on the big club. Will receive a qualifying offer and this shouldnít be a tough negotiation.
ē FORWARDS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2012-13: LW Andrew Ladd ($4,400,000), C Nik Antropov ($4,062,500), RW Blake Wheeler ($2,550,000), C Bryan Little ($2,383,333), C Alex Burmistrov ($1,500,000), RW Antti Miettinen ($1,351,293), RW Chris Thorburn ($866,667)
ē DEFENCE UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2012-13: Dustin Byfuglien ($5,200,000), Ron Hainsey ($4,500,000), Toby Enstrom ($3,750,000), Zach Bogosian ($2,500,000), Mark Stuart ($1,700,000)