by Brandt Corbin
As we head into the off-season, the new hockey operations department in Winnipeg will decide on who stays and who goes. As it stands right now, the blue line is the teams strength. Currently there is five defenseman signed with one way contracts, worth 18.6 million (between the five).That does not include Zach Boogasian who is currently an RFA, one would assume he would sign a contract in the ballpark of 3 million per season. It’s fair to say that spending over 21 million on 6 de-man is a little on the high side, to high in fact for a team that will be looking to spend around 50 million next year.
Three options going forward
The most unlikely option is moving Dustin Byfuglien up front, where he played in Chicago for three years. He was actually more productive last season as a defenseman than he was as a forward. It’s also not farfetched to say he can easily be a top tier defenseman.
It’s safe to assume Tobias Enstrom is #2 and Boogasian is 3rd in the depth chart on the blue line. That then leaves either Ron Hainsey (4.5 million) and/or Johnny Oduya (3.5 million) as the fourth and fifth on the depth chart. Having your 5th de-man making over 3.5 million doesn’t make much sense. Thus it should be safe to assume one of the two could be moved as soon as the entry draft on June 24th. While the team would love to move Hainsey’s salary, it would likely be Oduya simply because of his 1 year remaining left on his contract.
The third option is this. If the team decides they need a major upgrade up front, such as Jeff Carter, the player other teams would want is Boogasian. Would they consider making this move? Players like Carter and Boogasian don’t grow on trees so it all depends on the team’s priority.
But it comes back to somebody on the backend needs to move on. The 6th de-man, currently is Mark Stuart who they recently resigned for 2 years @ 1.7 million per year, he would be an ideal 5th de-man. The team needs to bring in two cheaper (6-7) de-man, making less than 1 million. What direction the team moves in is unknown, but within a month the direction will be clearer, and the team will start to take shape.