47-30-5, 99 points, 2nd in the Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Mark Letestu, D Anthony Bitetto, D Neal Pionk (acquired from NYR)
Subtractions: F Alex Broadhurst (signed with San Diego, AHL), F Marko Dano (signed with CBJ), F Kevin Hayes (traded to PHI), F Matt Hendricks (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (signed with Manitoba, AHL), F Par Lindholm (signed with BOS), F Brandon Tanev (signed with PIT), D Ben Chiarot (signed with MTL), D Bogdan Kiselevich (KHL), D Joe Morrow (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Tyler Myers (signed with VAN), D Jimmy Oligny (signed with Manitoba, AHL), D Jacob Trouba (traded to NYR), G Ken Appleby (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Kyle Connor, F Patrik Laine
Re-signed: F Andrew Copp, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Nelson Nogier, D Cameron Schilling, G Eric Comrie
Offseason Analysis: The Winnipeg Jets have $15,450,836 million in cap space currently and two prominent restricted free agents still unsigned.
Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine present a challenge for the Jets. Even worse, General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and head coach, Paul Maurice, aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye with their biggest star in Laine.
Regardless of whatever’s going on, the bottom line is we’ve seen this before and it led to one of Cheveldayoff’s trades this offseason.
No, not the Kevin Hayes trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that earned the Jets a 5th round pick in 2019, but rather the Jacob Trouba deal with the New York Rangers.
After back-to-back offseasons of uncertainty surrounding their RFA defender, Winnipeg dealt Trouba to the Rangers for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick– their own, that they originally sent to New York for Hayes at the trade deadline.
Trouba wanted a long-term deal with a significant pay raise in addition to a little job security.
The Rangers happily handed the 25-year-old a seven-year contract worth $8.000 million per season with a no-movement clause that goes into effect next season and becomes a modified no-trade clause in the final two years of the contract.
But it took a little drama in Winnipeg– without all the hype that surrounded William Nylander and Mitch Marner in Toronto over the last couple of summers– to get to the end result.
Laine has never scored fewer than 30 goals in a season and is sure to rebound from his 30-20–50 totals last season after reaching a career-high 44-26–70 totals in his sophomore season (2017-18).
He’s a goal-scorer, no doubt, and he might just be one of those players that exceeds expectations one year, then meets expectations the following year.
But since he’s of a higher caliber than others in the league, a “down” year might look like a tremendous drop-off.
It’s like saying Patrick Kane is a shell of his former self after posting a 76-point season in the midst of the last four seasons in which Kane has had 106 points in 2015-16, 89 points in 2016-17, 76 points in 2017-18 and 110 points last season.
Sure, Laine hasn’t reached the 60 or 70-point plateau as many times as Kane has in his career yet, but then again, Laine has only been around for three seasons to Kane’s 12 seasons entering 2019-20.
There’s a lot of potential left in the Finnish forward– just like there is or there was still a lot of potential in the Jets organization until the team that was three wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2018 had the wheels fall off.
Dustin Byfuglien– a huge part of their defense– was granted a personal leave of absence and is contemplating stepping away from the game with two-years left on his contract (worth $7.600 million per season).
If there’s no lingering injury that would enable Winnipeg to place Byfuglien on the long-term injured reserve, well, that leaves Cheveldayoff with an even tougher proposition.
If Byfuglien’s done there’s a chance his contract could be traded, freeing up enough cap space to fit both Laine and Connor comfortability under the ceiling.
Connor’s had back-to-back seasons of more than 30 goals. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Jets in his consistent play, but it’d be premature to throw him a larger contract like what should be expected with Laine.
Though both were first round picks, only one of them (Laine) came immediately after Auston Matthews in their respective draft.
Contract negotiations, especially for quality RFAs, are infused with untapped potential and future performance expectations– both in signing bonuses and performance bonuses, as well as the cap hit itself.
Laine has every right to feel that he should be paid what he thinks he is worth based on his career projection. Connor might have to settle for a bridge deal to further supplement his own belief in himself if he is to aim for the kind of money Laine might be looking at.
The hardest part of this saga for Jets fans?
Nobody really knows where anyone stands. Laine could be asking for $8.000 million or he could be asking for $11.000 million.
If it’s only $8.000 million, why wouldn’t a deal be done already?
If it’s closer to $11.000 million, why haven’t we heard near constant updates for one of the game’s biggest young stars, a la Marner?
The fact of the matter is that it feels like something is brewing that could send yet another Finnish superstar out of Winnipeg reminiscent of when Teemu Selanne was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1996.
Otherwise, the Jets have already had a lot of departures from their depth that might just start to interfere with their forward progress in the standings as of the last few seasons.
Offseason Grade: F
If two of your RFAs still don’t have a contract by this point of the offseason, it can only be the result of improper management and poor planning– especially as the rest of the league’s RFAs are putting pens to paper.
Besides that, Winnipeg did some major subtraction without addition and is on the brink of returning to pedestrian performance in the regular season and playoffs (if they even make the postseason). If Laine and/or Connor isn’t on the roster by Dec. 1st, then the Jets are a lost cause for 2019-20.