Andrew Ladd has established himself as a bonafide captain and a substantially under-rated star in this league, who has a very appealing contract, an absolute steal. Evander Kane certainly had a fantastic season, especially after getting cut from the KHL during the lockout. Blake Wheeler also took a giant leap forward, but happens to be coming up as a restricted free agent. His production this year would value him in the $5M-$6M per season range. This will be a challenging negotiation for the GM who already has Ladd, Kane, and Byfuglien locked down to fair, long-term contracts.
It is becoming clear that the Jets may want to change goaltenders. Pavelec does a reasonable job at the price he's paid, but he's never going to be a top goalie at the skill level required for an extended playoff run. He has some great games, but he also has some terrible games; the Pavelec experience is like a roller-coaster that always makes you feel sick at the end, even if there were exciting peaks. There will be plenty of goalies available this summer if the Jets don't have a youngster ready to challenge for the number one spot.
Preseason Rank: 27
Midseason Rank: 21
Final Rank: 20
GM Grade: C-
1st Star: Evander Kane
2nd Star: Andrew Ladd
3rd Star: Blake Wheeler
UFAs: Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Mike Santorelli, Antti Miettinen, Aaron Gagnon, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome, Derek Meech.
RFAs: Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Alex Burmistrov, Eric Tangradi, Anthony Peluso, Zach Bogosian, Zach Redmon, Paul Postma, Arturs Kulda
Best Contract: Andrew Ladd 3 more years at $4.4M
Worst Contract: Andrej Pavelec 4 more years at $3.9M
What I said about them in preseason: If your future is Andrej Pavelec, I'm not sure that future is very bright. Evander Kane stunk it up in the KHL, and the season will be half over before Byfuglien finally plays his way into shape. Maybe next season they play their way into a playoff spot, but it won't be in 2013.
The Jets have a very hefty free agent list this summer (and no that does not include Byfuglien), and is not hampered by any truly bad contracts ($5.75M for Tobias Enstrom may be a little rich). They have a solid core of players in place, and have the opportunity to get significantly better in the next few years. Let's hope that they have confidence in their General Manager, who failed to add any helpful pieces by the trade deadline, while the Jets fell just a few points short of a playoff spot. They have enough pieces in place that this could become a top team next season, but there are also a lot of holes to fill. 62% of their roster are free agents.