As the trade deadline approaches, plenty of eyes will be on Winnipeg and what occurs with some of their franchise players. Ryan Stelter and Andy Che discuss their thoughts on what the best choice may be for the Jets.
The Winnipeg Jets, and particularly general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, have some decisions to make in the near future.
Both Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are due to have their contracts run out at the end of this season. Byfuglien is currently making US$5.2 million a year, and will be looking for a long-term, big-money deal. Ladd is currently collecting US$4.4 million a year and will also be looking for a pay raise.
Here is the problem, however: Big Buff is 30 years old and will be heading into his twilight years fairly soon. Winnipeg has a young defenseman, Jacob Trouba, who is due to receive his first big pay raise as well, with his entry-level contract expiring at the end of this season. The 21-year-old has given the Jets brass a lot to think about and certainly deserves a long-term, big-money contract. He’s the future of the Jets’ blue line and there’s no question about it. Hopefully Cheveldayoff can see that and ink Trouba to a long-term deal.
It would be best for the Jets to re-sign Ladd for whatever amount of money he demands and keep Trouba for the long term. Byfuglien should be dealt at the trade deadline for an all-star forward – something that the Jets lack.
Evgeni Malkin is a player the Jets could target due to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ struggles on the back end. The trade could therefore make sense for both teams as the Jets would receive a top-line forward and the Pens could finally get a reliable defenceman. There would be other pieces involved, but if Chevy could pull a deal off like that it would definitely be a positive for the Jets.
It’s a sure bet that the Jets will extend the contracts of forwards Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry, who are set to become restricted free agents by this season’s end. The question remains,what length will each player sign to?
Scheifele perhaps has the most definitive outcome. Eyed as the future franchise centre for the Jets, the 22-year-old should be offered a long-term deal in the range of 5-6 years at US$25 million to US$35 million. Having signed an entry-level contract in 2011, Scheifele’s steady offensive output has him on pace to set career highs in goals and points this season.
Though dominant on the forecheck, the concern for Adam Lowry – another restricted free agent – is his potential to blossom into a top-six forward. Following a fruitful rookie campaign, the third-round selection in 2011 has fallen into a sophomore slump and was given a conditioning stint in the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. The Jets will likely test Lowry’s short-term potential with a three-year deal in the range of US$10 million to US$15 million.
The Jets will also be looking into locking up Jacob Trouba long term. However, with his offensive and defensive output slumping, the Jets may offer the 2012 ninth-overall selection a truncated contract for him to prove his playing level before inking him to a long-term deal. The most likely terms offered will be in the range of two years at US$8 million.
While Cheveldayoff assembles his shortlist of players to extend, the Jets general manager will also look into opening up cap space. With the emergence of Connor Hellebuyck – another Jet who will be seeing a boost in salary very soon – the future is appearing increasingly bleak for Ondrej Pavelec. At US$10 million over the next two seasons, the Jets might want to relieve him from their payroll. The most likely scenario is to trade the 28-year-old in exchange for a veteran goaltender as a mentor to both Hellebuyck and AHL standout Eric Comrie.