Are the Winnipeg Jets the next Canadian Stanley Cup Champions?

Terrence Lee – Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What happened in 1993?

Czechoslovakia split and became the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Bill Clinton became the 42nd US President and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. We haven’t had a Canadian team win ever since.

We could go on and on about why we haven’t had a Canadian winner in 25 years, but there have been some close calls.

The Vancouver Canucks lost in the finals in 1994 and 2011, Calgary lost in 2004, Edmonton in 2006 and Ottawa in 2007, but that’s it.

20 of the last 25 Stanley Cup finals have featured teams from south of the border.

But is that likely to change any time soon? And who’s the most realistic to buck the trend?

Right now, you have to admit the team with the most potential are the Winnipeg Jets

This past season, the Jets made all the way to the Western Conference finals, and with some of the fantastic young talent they have in their ranks, it’s hard to imagine this was a fluke.

It might have just been the second time the team has made the post-season since their return to Winnipeg in 2011, but this year was a lot different than the first.

In 2014/15 they crashed out in four games to the Anaheim Ducks, but this year they brushed the Minnesota Wild aside in five games, took last years Stanley Cup Finalists the Nashville Predators to seven games, before losing out to the Cinderella story team Vegas in five games in the conference finals.

If you look at the team that the Winnipeg Jets have, they’re not just a “playoff team” they’re a contender.

Michael Dwyer – Associated Press

Patrik Laine is one of the greatest goalscorers in the league right now and he’s not even old enough to have a beer in most the NHL cities, Connor Hellebuyck is now making good on a lot of the promise he had when the Jets selected him in 2012 and they’re absolutely stacked on defence.

Looking at their defensive unit, the only problem they have is that they may need to trade one to make room for contracts.

They have Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba as their right shot defenceman. So many teams need one, the Jets have three who could all make their own arguments to be on the top pair.

The Jets time is right now (well, the next few years at least) and they’ll have to have a meteoric fall from grace to not been a Western Conference Finals regular over the next three or four years.

Mark Scheifele is a student of the game and it’s showing in his play, Blake Wheeler might be the captain now but Scheifele is the captain in waiting.

Nikolaj Ehlers is killing it in the NHL, it’s not often Danes make the NHL, let alone tear it up at the rate he is with back-to-back 60+ point seasons. His future is bright in Winnipeg and that starts this summer when his seven-year $6 million a year deal kicks in.

Sure there are a few question marks right now, it looks like Tobias Enstrom is done in Winnipeg but he’s a UFA anyway, and Nic Petan who’s an RFA this summer might be looking to get out of town, but that’s not going to really impact the teams growth.

The biggest challenge for the Jets this summer is to lock up their notable RFA’s.

Josh Morrissey will comand a raise, and Jacob Trouba is due big money. However, after Trouba’s well documented hold out a couple of seasons ago, will the Jets move him on and hit free agency for a replacement? They could end up well off going down either road.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) blocks a shot with his shoulder while playing against the Minnesota Wild during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

The biggest contract they’ll have to offer will be to Connor Hellebuyck. He was on a one-year “prove it” contract this season, earning $2.25 mil, and after proving that he’s not only the starter in Winnipeg, but putting in a Vezina Trophy finalist.

His numbers improved from .907 save percentage through 56 games in 2016/17 to .924 in 67 games this year, Hellebuyck has earned his payday and it’s coming soon.

The Jets have around $20 million to play with this summer, so while they may not have much to use when free agency comes around through re-signing their own guys, they have the right guys already.

If they can keep hold of Stastny they should, he came up huge when they traded for him this season, and he’ll be a veteran presence in the room to help steer the young guns like Laine in the right direction.

The window for the Jets to win is right now, it’s just opened and it might not stay open for long. But with the guys the team has, they can do some serious damage with the right moves.

Sure they can shift some expensive contracts to help out like Mathieu Perreault, but honestly the way the team has drafted over recent years hasn’t been fantastic but they’ve got some decent guys on their way up, but the guys they need are all in the NHL right now.

Winnipeg, you’re on the clock, you’re Canada’s only hope right now (here come the angry Leafs fans after that statement)

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