About filling a hole up front for the Winnipeg Jets…Scheifele’s salary the ceiling…oddsmakers like the Leafs, Preds, Jets and Lightning…a $77 million hometown discount…Canada’s best team…and an old folks home in L.A.

Quick takeaways from Day 1 of the National Hockey League’s annual grab bag of free agents

It’s true what the pundits are saying: Because the bean counters couldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul Stastny, the Winnipeg Jets aren’t as good today as they were on May 20, the night the Vegas Golden Knights ushered them out of the Stanley Cup spring runoff.

Fortunately for the rabble, they don’t have to be as good today.

Paul Stastny

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has until October to ferret out a reasonable facsimile of Stastny, an efficient and productive, albeit aging centre-ice man who has taken the money and skedaddled to Glitter Gulch, leaving les Jets with a significant vacancy in the middle of the rink.

Stastny, of course, was les Jets main person of interest when the National Hockey League opened its grab bag of free agents on Sunday, but keeping him in the fold was always an iffy proposition.

This was always going to be about salary cap, and it wasn’t enough that Cheveldayoff shipped hard-luck, backup goaltender Steve Mason and his burdensome $4.1-million sticker price to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday to clear space. With a list of restricted free agents as long as a Winnipeg winter, the bean counters determined there simply wasn’t enough spare change in the piggy bank, otherwise Stastny would be returning to River City next autumn to help les Jets finish what was left undone in May.

It doesn’t really matter if the Golden Knights, at $6.5 million for each of the next three crusades, overpaid to lure the 32-year-old Stastny away from Portage and Main to the Vegas Strip. At issue is the hole he leaves down the middle.

Jack Roslovic

Jack Roslovic would be my choice to slide between Twig Ehlers and Patrik (Puck Finn) Laine on the No. 2 forward unit, at least when the local lads gather for training exercises in September. He’s no Stastny—not yet—but Roslovic plays with tempo and imagination. I think he’d be a suitable fit in what could become les Jets version of the Kid Line.

If Roslovic doesn’t work out, Bryan Little come on down! Again, Little is no Stastny, but, hey, it’s not like he’s Milan Lucic bad.

The point is, Cheveldayoff and the bean counters have all summer and September to figure this out. If neither Roslovic or Little is the answer, they can do something at the trade deadline, same as last season when they brought Stastny on board.

Rink Rat Scheifele

Brian Burke was part of the all-gab gang on Sportsnet’s coverage of free agent day, and he mentioned something about Cheveldayoff doing “too good a job,” hence the GM’s challenge of fitting financial square pegs into round holes. There’s certainly some truth to that. But here’s the real sticking point for Chevy: Rink Rat Scheifele’s team-friendly, steal-of-a-deal contract. Les Jets could have matched the Vegas offer of $6.5 million annually to keep Stastny on board, but they can’t have their aging, No. 2 centre ahead of their young, productive No. 1 centre at the pay window. Scheifele’s annual take is $6.125 million. So that’s the ceiling for Jets forwards. They could not have offered Stastny a penny more.

That ceiling will, of course, rise when Chevy re-ups his captain and best player, Blake Wheeler, about to enter the final year of a contract that makes him the third-highest wage earner among forwards at $5.6 million. Only Scheifele and Twig Ehlers ($6M) earn more, which, given Wheeler’s performance and importance to the team, is ridiculous. He should be rewarded as the highest-paid player. The real mystery is what they do when it’s time for Chevy and the bean counters to re-up Puck Finn, who comes out of his entry level deal next summer.

The oddsmakers at BetOnline like what they see in les Jets, even sans Stastny. After the Tranna Maple Leafs (+600) and Nashville Predators (+900), the local lads and Tampa Bay Lightning were listed on Sunday at +1000 to win the Stanley Cup. It’s a bet I wouldn’t make today, not with the iffiness of the No. 2 centre slot, but I might want to make it next spring. (Surprisingly, the Detroit Red Wings were the longest shot on the BetOnline board, at +10000. Are they really that bad?)

The gab gang on Sportsnet suggested John Tavares left money on the table when he chose to abandon the New York Islanders and accept $77 million to join the Maple Leafs. In other words, it was a hometown discount because his childhood dream was to play in the Republic of Tranna. Well, excuse me, but in whose universe is $77 million a discount?

John Tavares

The Leafs get Tavares and his 84 points, the Islanders get Leo Komarov and his 19 points. Do the math. And will the last person to leave Long Island please turn out the lights?

It’s fine that the rabble in the Republic of Tranna are going ga-ga over Tavares, but here’s something they should keep in mind: He doesn’t make Jake Gardiner or Ron Hainsey better defencemen.

So, add Tavares to the Leafs roster and take Stastny from les Jets roster and who has the better team? Still the Jets, mainly because of the blueline and in goal.

Do the Los Angeles Kings have anyone under age 30 on their roster?

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Paul Maurice: Does the Winnipeg Jets coach enjoy his parry-and-thrust with the media?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

I’m not quite sure what to make of Paul Maurice vis-a-vis news scavengers.

I watch him work the Fourth Estate during his press gatherings and he is serious, sometimes sharp, snappy and abrupt. Coach PoMo often answers a question before it has been completely framed, which is to say he interrupts, hinting at a pinch of impatience. It seems to be his way of saying, “I’ve got things to do, let’s get to the point.” I sometimes see a smug man, with gusts approaching snarky.

Even on those occasions when he slips into light-hearted mode and kibitzes with his interrogators, his jabs at jocularity seem tempered.

At the same time, this Winnipeg Jets head coach is obliging, thoughtful, articulate, respectful and he’s media savvy, in a much different way than his predecessor, the joy-seeking Claude Noel, who was forever feeding scribes and talking heads with bons mots that made for brilliant, knee-slapping sound bites but offered little substance.

I really can’t determine if Maurice enjoys this part of his job or if he’d rather be elsewhere. My guess would be it’s the latter, but he surely understands that it is part of his job and he is better at it than most National Hockey League bench bosses.

HITHER & YAWN: I have added a new item to my Bucket List—appearing on TSN’s Off the Record with Michael Landsberg. I figure it’s the Canadian sports TV equivalent to being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It’d be a cool gig, especially the Next Question segment……So, how do you spell desperate? Evander Kane spells it: B-u-f-f-a-l-o. I say that because Kane is “very excited” about shuffling off to Buffalo, which tells us how desperate he was to get out of River City. I mean, if you’ve ever been to the upstate New York burg (I have), you know that it isn’t Shangri-la. But good luck to Kane and the Buffalo McDavids next hockey season…If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers make big noise in Canadian Football League free agency and no one hears it because the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane a day later, did it really happen? I mean, poor Kyle Walters. The Bombers general manager went about the task of upgrading his last-place product by signing five bodies, and it was greeted with a yawn…We all know there are many differences between the CFL and National Football League. Here’s the latest: The NFL stages its neutral-site games in London in the U.K. The CFL goes to Fort McMurray, Alta., where a team from Toronto is the home side and a team from Alberta is the visitor…Has Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun become the best football beat writer in Canada? If it isn’t Penton, it’s either Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press or Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette.

fish wrapTHE WRITE STUFF: Very disappointed to see a scribe from the Republic of Tranna, Mike Koreen, in Moose Jaw to cover the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for Sun Media. Nothing against Koreen as a scribe, but readers of the Winnipeg Sun would be much better served if one of their own was on site. To date, we’ve read about Richard Hart coaching Team Canada (Rachel Homan from Ottawa), a piece on Kerry Galusha and Tracy Horgan discussing the new pre-qualifying portion of the Canadian women’s curling championship, and a feature on Lori Olson-Johns of Val Sweeting’s Alberta foursome. The only item on Jennifer Jones and her Buffalo Girls was a pre-event advancer for their Monday night skirmish with defending champ Homan. The Winnipeg Free Press, meanwhile, has staffer Melissa Martin in Moose Jaw to deliver daily dispatches about Jones and Co. Score one for the Freep…The most complete coverage of the Scotties can be found in the Heart Chart, the daily sheet produced in Moose Jaw by former Winnipeg Sun sports editor and longtime curling journalist Dave Komosky. He has ex-Saskatoon Star Phoenix sports scribe Cam Hutchinson riding shotgun, and the two of them are putting out a boffo product…So, Doug Brown scribbles a column for the Winnipeg Free Press about the horrors of pro sports dressing rooms. Good idea. Except the former Blue Bombers defensive lineman provides zero anecdotal evidence from his 20 years in football to support the notion that they can be raunchy, nasty, bad-news bunkers that foster bullying. Thus, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. He used a lot of really big words, though, which often seems to be the purpose of the exercise…This penetrating analysis from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Freep on the Jets post-season push: “The key for the Jets as they hope to secure a playoff berth for the first time since returning to Winnipeg will be to collect points on as many nights as possible over the remaining 24 games.” Well, duh. What was your first clue, Sherlock?

bow wow bungalowBOW WOW BUNGALOW: Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun has stepped in it again (he never fails to fail). This was his take on the Jets large trade featuring Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian going to the Buffalo McDavids…

“I seem to be in the minority on this, but I don’t think the Winnipeg Jets won the Evander Kane trade handily. I break it down this way: Tyler Myers for Zack (sic) Bogosian is one developing defenceman for another. Slight edge to Winnipeg. Now Buffalo gets Kane, a proven commodity with mounds of baggage in exchange for a late first-round pick, Claude Lemieux’s son and a minor leaguer. They may get something for Kane or they may end up with nothing. Late first-round picks are no sure thing. Buffalo gets a sure-thing NHL player in Kane to play alongside whichever centre they draft first in June.”

So, let’s see: He spelled Zach Bogosian’s first name incorrectly. He didn’t bother to identify Claude Lemieux’s son as Brendan Lemieux and, worst of all, he ignored the fact that the Jets also received Drew Stafford in barter from Buffalo. That would be the same Drew Stafford who’s already paid dividends, scoring one goal in regulation time and the shootout winner in the Jets 5-4 verdict over the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night.

Enjoy your stay in the Bow Wow Bungalow, Stevie.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.