May 27, 2024

Jets go in different direction with Vilardi, Iafallo, Kupari

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2023-24 regular season, which starts Oct. 10. Today, the Winnipeg Jets:

 

2022-23 season: 46-33-3, fourth in Central Division; lost in Western Conference First Round

 

Key arrivals

Gabriel Vilardi, F: Vilardi, who turns 24 on Aug. 16, was acquired June 27 from the Los Angeles Kings, along with forwards Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, for center Pierre-Luc Dubois. He had 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists) in 63 regular-season games and four points (two goals, two assists) in five Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Kings. … Alex Iafallo, F: The 29-year-old had 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 59 regular-season games and four points (three goals, one assist) in six playoff games for Los Angeles. … Rasmus Kupari, F: Selected by the Kings in the first round (No. 20) of the 2018 NHL Draft, the 23-year-old started last season with Ontario of the American Hockey League but had 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 66 NHL regular-season games. He was held without a point in six playoff games for Los Angeles. … Laurent Brossoit, G: A Stanley Cup winner with the Vegas Golden Knights last season, Brossoit signed a one-year contract July 1. The 30-year-old was limited to 11 regular-season games with Vegas due to offseason hip surgery but was the starting goalie in the playoffs until he sustained a groin injury in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers. This is Brossoit’s second stint with the Jets (2018-21).

Video: LAK@EDM, Gm1: Iafallo caps off passing play in OT

 

Key departures

Pierre-Luc Dubois, F: Traded to the Kings after the Jets were unable to sign Dubois, who had been a pending restricted free agent. He had an NHL career-high 63 points (27 goals, 36 assists) in 73 regular-season games and four points (two goals, two assists) in five playoff games for Winnipeg. … Blake Wheeler, F: The franchise’s leader in games played (897), assists (550) and points (812), he signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers on July 1 after the final season of a five-year contract ($8.25 million average annual value) was bought out by the Jets on June 30. Wheeler had 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) in 72 regular-season games and six points (two goals, four assists) in five playoff games last season. … David Rittich, G: Signed a one-year contract with the Kings on July 1 after he was 9-8-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 21 games (18 starts) as the backup for Connor Hellebuyck last season.

 

On the cusp

Ville Heinola, D: Selected in the first round (No. 20) in the 2019 NHL Draft, the 22-year-old had 37 points (four goals, 33 assists) in 48 games with Manitoba of the AHL last season, and one assist in 10 games for Winnipeg. Heinola is expected to get a long look in training camp and could challenge for a roster spot. … Brad Lambert, F: Selected in the first round (No. 30) of the 2022 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old started last season in the AHL with Manitoba and had three points (two goals, one assist) in 14 games before being returned to the junior level. He had 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 26 games, and 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 17 playoff games with Seattle. … Chaz Lucius, F: The 20-year-old started last season in the AHL and had five points (two goals, three assists) in 12 games for Manitoba. He helped the United States finish third at 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship and was then sent to Portland of the WHL, where he had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in six games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery. He was selected by Winnipeg in the first round (No. 18) of the 2021 NHL Draft.

 

What they still need

The Jets have decisions to make with Hellebuyck and forward Mark Scheifele, who is each entering the final year of their contracts. If general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is unable to re-sign them, he may have to make a trade to avoid losing them as unrestricted free agents. If that is the case, then Winnipeg will have two big holes to fill. Brossoit will help soften the blow if Hellebuyck is traded, but Winnipeg will need another top-six forward if it can’t keep Scheifele.

 

They said it

“We’ve got lots of good pieces here. The keeping of ‘Vladdy’ (Namestnikov), the addition of the three forwards, I think it really gives us a group of forwards that we really haven’t had at any point and time in this organization from top to bottom.” — general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff

 

Fantasy focus

Vilardi sees fantasy breakout potential with a role in their top-six forward group. With a larger role on a less potent offense and the opportunity to play on their top man-advantage unit with Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey, Vilardi should be targeted as a fringe top-150 player overall in fantasy. — Anna Dua

Video: LAK@EDM, Gm2: Vilardi ties the game at 2-2 in the 2nd

 

Projected lineup

Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Nikolaj Ehlers 

Cole PerfettiVladislav Namestnikov — Gabriel Vilardi 

Alex Iafallo — Adam LowryNino Niederreiter 

Morgan Barron — Rasmus Kupari — Mason Appleton 

Josh Morrissey — Dylan DeMelo 

Brenden DillonNeal Pionk 

Dylan SambergNate Schmidt 

Connor Hellebuyck 

Laurent Brossoit 

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