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SportsThe keys to the Jets' offseason

14:50  04 june  2019
14:50  04 june  2019 Source:   prohockeyrumors.com

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The keys to the Jets' offseason© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the postseason down to just two teams, most squads are now well into their offseason planning. What storylines lie ahead around the league in what is shaping up to be a likely busy NHL offseason? Next up in our offseason keys series is a look at the Winnipeg Jets.

Expectations were high for Winnipeg after making it to the Western Conference Final in 2018. Most of the team was returning, and then GM Kevin Cheveldayoff added Kevin Hayes at the trade deadline with the hopes that he’d have an impact like Paul Stastny did the year before. Unfortunately for the Jets, they didn’t fare as well in the postseason this time around as they were ousted by St. Louis in the opening round. While last summer was relatively quiet for Cheveldayoff, he’ll have plenty of heavy lifting to do this time around. Here are the key parts of his to-do list for this summer.

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The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason
The keys to the Jets' offseason

Re-sign key restricted free agent forwards

Heading into the season, Patrik Laine looked like he was in line for a massive payday. He was coming off a 44-goal campaign and had 80 through his first two seasons, establishing himself as one of the premier goal scorers in the league already. He looked like he was heading in that direction once again with a fantastic month of November, when he scored 18 times. However, Laine struggled the rest of the season and wound up with only 50 points (30-20-50) on the entire season.

Accordingly, there are now questions about what type of contract he’ll ultimately wind up with. The chances of him getting top dollar among the high-end group of restricted free agents is virtually nil now that his value has taken a hit. If that’s the case, could a bridge contract wind up being the better way for Laine to go with the hopes of landing a bigger deal a year or two from now?

On top of getting a new deal done for Laine, the Jets also have another key winger to re-sign in Kyle Connor, who very quietly outproduced his fellow RFA in 2018-19. He’s a little different than some of the other top players of this class in that he really only has two full NHL seasons under his belt after spending the bulk of his rookie year at the minor league level. Even so, there’s a case to be made that his next deal should be comparable to the face value of William Nylander’s pact in Toronto: six years and $45M.

Determine Trouba’s future

On top of its two wingers, Winnipeg has one other key restricted free agent in defenseman Jacob Trouba. While new deals for Laine and Connor are basically a formality at this point, Trouba’s case is nowhere near as certain.

For starters, he’s only one year away from unrestricted free agency. He already demonstrated that he’s OK with going through the salary arbitration process, going that route last year and being awarded a $5.5M salary, which now stands as his qualifying offer. If he wants to get to UFA status as soon as possible, it’s quite likely that he’ll merely file for arbitration early next month and go through the process once again.

On top of that, Trouba is coming off a career season. He more than doubled his point output from 2017-18 and was a big factor on the power play for the first time. That is certainly going to bolster his negotiating leverage, and he’s well-positioned to land another sizable raise this summer.

There have been questions about Trouba’s willingness to sign long-term in Winnipeg, even after he rescinded his trade request back in 2016. If the 25-year-old doesn’t show much of an inclination to consider a long-term extension, Cheveldayoff will need to seriously consider trading him. The two weeks leading up to free agency have been the time where impact defenders have been swapped in the past before teams more or less finalize their rosters with their moves on the open market. As a result, Trouba’s case is something that will very likely be settled one way or the other over the next month or so.

Free up cap room

Last summer, Winnipeg was forced to part with Joel Armia to offload the final year and $4M of Steve Mason’s contract to Montreal. There’s a good chance the organization will need to do something like that again in the coming weeks.

The Jets currently have roughly $56.7M in cap commitments for next season, per CapFriendly. New contracts for Laine, Connor and Trouba will eat up most of that, though they still have several depth players to re-sign or replace. In addition, Tyler Myers is a pending unrestricted free agent whose future with the team could ultimately be tied to what happens with Trouba. The Jets are going to be hard-pressed to get everyone re-signed while staying under the upper limit, even if it gets a boost as expected.

Mathieu Perreault is someone who has been speculated as a potential cap casualty dating back to last summer. He’s a capable secondary scorer who can play all three forward positions, but at a $4.125M average annual value for two more years, that will be a tricky sell considering that his point-per-game rate was the lowest of his career in 2018-19. (To be fair, his ice time dipped considerably as well.) Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov ($4.33M) has an expiring contract but doesn’t have the potential to make as much of an impact as Perreault does. While Kulikov was once a top-four defender, he has been used in more of a depth role the last couple of years, and the Jets would need to provide a fair bit of incentive if they want to offload that contract. A buyout could be an option with him as well.

Whether it’s with Perreault, Kulikov or someone else, Cheveldayoff will undoubtedly call around the league to see what opportunities will present themselves to alleviate some of the Jets' cap challenges. With the buyout window closing at the end of June, it’s likely that any moves they make to clear up cap room will be done by then.

Read more

Jets GM after Trouba trade: 'We've got a lot of balls in the air'.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made one of the biggest trades in club history when he sent Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers for Neal Pionk and a first-round pick on Monday. However, the veteran executive hinted that his club is far from done. "We've got a lot of moving parts or balls in the air," he told TSN's Frank Seravalli. CapFriendly projects the Jets to have $25.4 million in cap space this summer, but many free agents are on expiring contracts. Even with Erik Karlssoncoming off the market on Monday, this free-agent class - both unrestricted and restricted - projects to be one of the best in recent memory.

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