The immediate opening of the NHL’s 2020 free agency period saw the Winnipeg Jets re-sign a number of regulars from the blueline, while also trading with the Vegas Golden Knights for a familiar face on forward. In the days following the Paul Stastny trade and the re-signings of Dylan DeMelo, Nathan Beaulieu and Luca Sbisa, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has remained busy, slowly compiling depth pieces for the coming season.
First, the team took a look at current restricted free agents within the squad and signed forward Mason Appleton to a two-year deal worth an average annual value of $900K.. The 24-year-old suited up in 46 games for the Jets, scoring five times and adding three assists, to go alongside 20 penalty minutes. The Wisconsin product was selected 168th overall in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Winnipeg.
Saturday continued with the re-signing of AHL forward CJ Suess to a two-year, two-way deal worth an NHL value of $725K. The 26-year-old skated in one game with the Jets last season, on top of 57 regular season contests with the Moose. It was his third partial season in the AHL, to which the 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward has 27 goals, 41 points and 41 penalty minutes in 89 total games.
Following the depth idea, Chevy added forward Dominic Toninato to a one-year, two-way deal. The contract is worth $700K at the NHL level. The 26-year-old suited up for 46 games with the Florida Panthers last season, where he scored four times and added seven assists for 11 points. The former fifth round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs (2012) also spent time with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL where he had eight points in 15 games in 2019-20.
Then, the Jets looked out on the open market and added veteran tough guy Nate Thompson on a one-year deal worth $750K. The 36-year-old forward has made a name for himself as a bottom-six grinder, who is willing to throw down when things get messy. Last season, Thompson split time between the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens, where he put up four goals, 15 points and 30 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward was also a former sixth round pick (2003).
On Sunday, Winnipeg added defenceman Derek Forbort on a one-year, $1 million deal. A steady presence on the Los Angeles Kings’ back-end for the better part of four seasons, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound defender fell out of favour with the Kings’ coaching staff last season and was moved to Calgary, where he completed the season, skating in seven games, before playing in all 10 Flames postseason matchups. He had two points and two penalty minutes in the playoffs.
With the signing period still heavily in effect, the Jets have plenty of opportunity to land another big-name player, or the ever-present depth option.