2017-18 season preview: Winnipeg Jets

Is Steve Mason really that much of an improvement for the Jets? Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets: 40-35-7, missed the playoffs, $7.3 million in cap space

Biggest changes: The Jets' biggest move this summer came with the signing of former Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason to a two-year, $8.2 million contract. Mason struggled last season but is 29 years old and has proven to be a solid goaltender during his career. Blueliner Dmitry Kulikov was signed to a three-year, $13 million deal to add depth. Winnipeg finished 27th in goals against, allowing 3.11 goals per game, and both Mason and Kulikov will help bring that number down. Winnipeg's top prospects have all been brought up in recent years, mostly with positive results, and this season the Jets hope 20-year-old Kyle Connor, the team's first-round pick in 2015, can continue that trend. Connor had five points in 20 games with the Jets last season after notching 44 points in 52 games with the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

Case for: The Jets have some of the best young offensive talent in the NHL, which will take them to the next level this season. Winger Patrik Laine scored 36 goals in 73 games as a rookie last season and could challenge for 40 -- or even 50 -- as a sophomore. Center Mark Scheifele cemented himself as a top pivot with 82 points and should repeat those numbers. Winger Blake Wheeler is one of the NHL's least-publicized stars and has picked up 74 or more points in each of the past two seasons, so another season above the 70-point mark is likely. Winger Nikolaj Ehlers is just 21 and had a breakthrough year with 64 points last season; he has the talent to hit 70 points. The Jets have some versatile puck movers on the back end, with Jacob Trouba (33 points in 60 games) and Dustin Byfuglien (52 points in 80 games). If Tyler Myers can stay healthy and Kulikov can successfully make the transition to his new team, the D will be formidable.

Case against: Although the Jets had talent and depth and improved from the previous season, something was still off in 2016-17, when they went 4-1-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks but 36-34-7 against everyone else. Overall, their lack of consistency was confusing, and if that isn't addressed, it's hard to see them improving. Also, signing Mason didn't really address the goaltending issues. Last season, No. 1 Connor Hellebuyck had a 2.89 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 56 games. Mason wasn't that much better, with a 2.66 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 58 games with the Flyers. Mason has had more success in his career than Hellebuyck, but based on numbers, it doesn't seem like he will make a major difference. Kulikov is coming off his worst season, in which he had five points in 47 games. If he doesn't find his form, his contract will quickly turn into a liability.

Trade bait: Trouba asked for a trade before last season, and he did not report until after he signed a two-year, $6 million contract on Nov. 7. He said he rescinded his trade request, but based on his recent contract history with the Jets, questions remain as to whether he wants to stay. Trouba's deal is up after this season, and the Jets might look at him as a trading chip if negotiations go south.

Goalie situation rating: 5. Mason and Hellebuyck have had success and should bounce back. But they aren't considered elite, and their struggles last season loom large as a major question heading into the season.

Scout's take: "I look at their team, and I think they're better than the Chicago Blackhawks. They're deeper than the Chicago Blackhawks, and they killed the Chicago Blackhawks almost every time they played them. They're big, they're fast, they're dynamic up front with Ehlers and Scheifele, Wheeler and Laine. I just don't understand how they're not better."

Prediction: Fourth in Central

Depth chart/combos


Patrik Laine-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault-Bryan Little-Nikolaj Ehlers

Kyle Connor-Adam Lowry-Joel Armia

Shawn Matthias-Andrew Copp-Marko Dano


Josh Morrissey-Jacob Trouba

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Dmitry Kulikov-Tyler Myers


Steve Mason

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson