NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Winnipeg Jets.
[Jets 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. When will Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor sign?
Each forward remains a restricted free agent with the start of training camp less than two weeks away.
Laine had 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games last season and has scored 110 goals in his first three NHL seasons (36 as a rookie in 2016-17 and 44 in 2017-18), sixth most in the League in that span.
Connor had 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games last season and has 123 points (65 goals, 58 assists) in the past two. He was second on the Jets in goals last season behind Mark Scheifele (38) and has played mostly on Winnipeg's top line with Scheifele and captain Blake Wheeler.
Laine and Connor accounted for 23.7 percent of Winnipeg's goals last season and 27.5 percent of its goals in 2017-18.
Video: 31 in 31: Winnipeg Jets 2019-20 season preview
2. Are their defensemen good enough?
It appears the top four to start the season will be Josh Morrissey, Dustin Byfuglien, Dmitry Kulikov and Neal Pionk. Jacob Trouba (traded to New York Rangers for Pionk and a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft), Tyler Myers (signed with Vancouver Canucks) and Ben Chiarot (signed with Montreal Canadiens) likely will be replaced by Sami Niku, Nathan Beaulieu and Tucker Poolman. Winnipeg allowed 243 goals last season, 15th in the NHL after finishing fifth in 2017-18 (216 goals-against).
Video: WPG@BOS: Morrissey strikes quickly on the power play
3. Can Connor Hellebuyck bounce back?
After going 44-11-9 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and six shutouts in 2017-18, Hellebuyck was 34-23-3 with a 2.90 GAA, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts. The decline in his statistics can be gauged in a simple analysis: Hellebuyck allowed 23 more goals last season than in 2017-18, one more in every 2.7 starts, and his rate of saves was worse by 1.1 over each 100 shots-against. Those are small differences that have big impacts.
Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Hellebuyck