Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2017-18 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $67,661,666 (under the $75MM Upper Limit)
The future looks bright for the Jets, especially with Laine, who is constantly overshadowed by Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews. Laine, who was taken second-overall in last year’s draft, put up phenomenal numbers that make Jets fans believe again in their team. He put up 36 goals in his rookie campaign and added 28 assists for a 64-point season. He should only get better and become the cornerstone of the franchise in the future. He should be joined by Ehlers, who also had a breakout year last year. The 2014 first-round pick had 15 goals in his rookie year, but added to that this past year, putting up 25 goals and 39 assists for 64 points.
The team also has high hopes for Connor to make the team and find himself a full-time role this year. The team’s 2015 first-round pick, put up big numbers a couple years ago at the University of Michigan two years ago, then scored 25 goals with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and still managed to get 20 games in with the Jets, where he scored two goals and three assists. The team believes he has a good shot to end up on one of the back two lines. Morrissey, the team’s first-round pick back in 2013, found a full-time role with the Jets last year as he put up six goals and 14 assists. He is currently slated to start on the Jets’ third-line defense.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
D Toby Enstrom ($5.75MM, UFA)
F Bryan Little ($4.7MM, UFA)
D Jacob Trouba ($2.81MM, RFA)
G Connor Hellebuyck ($2.25MM, RFA)
F Shawn Matthias ($2.13MM, UFA)
G Michael Hutchinson ($1.15MM, UFA)
F Adam Lowry ($1.13MM, RFA)
F Joel Armia ($925K, RFA)
F Marko Dano ($850K, RFA)
F Brandon Tanev ($700K, RFA)
F Matt Hendricks ($700K, UFA)
F Michael Sgarbossa ($650K, RFA)
That’s a long list, but most of the players are restricted free agents and should easily be retained. However, the team will have to make some decisions on some key veterans, including Little, who many feel is an underrated forward. The 29-year-old has been with the franchise from the start of his career when they were the Atlanta Thrashers and has scored 184 goals for the franchise. With the team’s large number of young forwards, might they move on from Little in a year? Injuries have plagued little over the past two years as he’s missed 48 games. His 21 goals last year were solid, but he will need to prove his value this year if he wants another long-term deal. Another potential unrestricted free agent would be Enstrom, who will be 33 next year and the team will have to decide whether to keep the veteran blueliner. His offensive numbers dropped into the teens in the last couple of years. Mattias and Hendricks are expendable fill-ins, but valuable veterans to hold that roster together.
The team will be looking to several of their restricted free agent as key players in the future. The team will be looking at Trouba to have a big season this year. The 23-year-old defenseman had a career-high 33 points a year ago and he did that in only 60 games, so many feel he may take his game up a notch this year if he can avoid injuries. Despite Hellebuyck’s down year as they attempted to hand him the starting goaltender job, the team still looks at him as a potential starter that just wasn’t ready to take their reigns last year. His 2.89 GAA in 56 games didn’t get the job done. With Mason coming in, Hellebuyck will have more time to develop as a backup.
The team will be looking for Lowry to continue to develop as well. Lowry had 15 goals last year and the 24-year-old is expected to center the team’s third line. Armia also has bigger expectations this year after putting up 10 goals a year ago. He could also end up as a wing next to Lowry on that third line. Dano could also pick up a full-time role with the Jets this year. The former 2013 first-rounder played 38 games for Winnipeg last year, putting up four goals and seven assists.
Two Years Remaining
The team’s main focus will be determining which of these veteran players will they want to bring back. Wheeler, who is 31 years of age, will be 33 years old, but he’s been amazingly consistent for Winnipeg over the last four years, scoring no less than 26 goals in that span. His success over the next two years will be the determining factor if they keep him. Granted, Mason hasn’t played a game for the Jets yet, but it’s more than likely that the Jets will move on from the veteran goaltender. He was signed to provide a stop-gap for Hellebuyck or other young goaltenders to move up in the system. As for Myers, again, the team will look to see how he plays. Considered to be one of their top defenders, he went down with a lower body injury after playing in just 11 games and now is expected to man the team’s second defensive line. At 27, he still has time to prove his value to the franchise.
Three Years Remaining
D Dmitry Kulikov ($4.33MM, UFA)
One of the most criticized signings was this summer when the Jets went out and inked Kulikov to a three-year, $13MM deal. Once considered to be a top defensive prospect, Kulikov has failed to have a big season and really collapsed a year ago when he only was able to put up five points in 47 games. Yet, the Jets brought him in with the hope he could help fix the team’s defensive woes. He suffered a back injury in the preseason with Buffalo a year ago and could never get it going, missing chunks of games due to that injury all year. Now healthy, the Jets hope this gamble will pay off.
Four Or More Years Remaining
The team has only three large, long-term contracts on the books and the team is thrilled they have Scheifele locked up for another seven years. Signed to an eight-year extension in July of 2016, Scheifele is a centerpiece for the Jets. The 24-year-old had a breakout season that year, scoring 29 goals in the 2015-16 season. He topped that number with 32 goals this past year and is poised for greater things and at his age, they can count on him for a long time.
Byfuglien is locked up for another four years. The bruising 6-foot-5 defender has put up big numbers over his career, including a 13 goal, 39 assists season a year ago. He will be 36 when his contract ends, but with him still performing at his prime, this also looks like it was a good signing. Perreault, on the other hand, has not worked out as well. Signed from Anaheim after an 18-goal season in 2014, he agreed to a three-year deal, putting up another 18 goals, but since then, has combined for 22 goals in the past two seasons. Nevertheless, the team locked him up to a new four-year, $16.5MM deal which starts this year despite his offensive struggles.
D Mark Stuart ($1.46MM in 2017-18; $583K in 2018-19)
Retained Salary Transactions
Still To Sign
Best Value: Scheifele
Worst Value: Perreault
The Jets have done a fantastic job putting together a powerful offense. When you combine players like Scheifele, Laine, Wheeler and Little to go with their young players, offense isn’t the problem. The team finished seventh in the NHL in goals scored, averaging 3.0 goals per game. Yet, despite all that scoring, the team still did not reach the playoffs, placing ninth in the Western Conference, seven points short of that final playoff berth. What kept them from advancing? The team’s lack of defense and their goaltending situation held them back. The team was fourth in the NHL in goals allowed as they allowed 3.11 goals per game. The team hopes with the improvement of their offense, the return of Myers from injury and the additions of Kulikov and Mason, the team should be able to push their way into the playoffs this year.