The Jets have problems, but the right kind
I've been away for a bit- family stuff and vacation and as I perused Twitter I noticed that there is a lot of doom and gloom around the Jets and their future. It's understandable, they seemed to fall short in their quest for the cup while the window was set. Then when it seemed they could keep Paul Stastny he left for Las Vegas, the team that took the Jets out of the their quest for the cup. Now, all of a sudden it seems the hockey world is rather negative around the future of the team based on contracts and the salary cap.
It's time to dispel some myths here.
Let's talk about the first one that has many riled up- Winnipeg being a 'budget team'. That was the statement/term used by Ryan Lambert in his piece that was bouncing around today and getting the locals a bit restless.
Last season the Jets ran a projected daily cap hit at the end of the season at $72,880,000. That's $3,120,000 from the cap ceiling and if you include bonuses well guess what they were $120,000 under the cap. So a budget team they are not, now they may have been in the past as they worked toward being a contender. In the past Lambert has taken a few shots at the Jets particular in 2013 after they signed Bogosian, Little and Wheeler as RFAs but that's in the past.
The point here is that the Jets are like every other team they operate within a budget and that budget is dictated by the strength of the team and the players on it as well as the NHL's salary cap. The Jets are doing just fine in that aspect.
Now will they be fine in the future?
For instance the Jets were only 5 million under the top-spending Toronto Maple Leafs this past season so if being within the team that can spend whatever it wants is seems as being fiscally restrained then I'm not sure what the world looks like any more. Now though the hard part comes for the Jets, their management and their players, and the fans as something always gives in these situations.
From the outside you will never hear of one player giving critical thought to a contract of another, at least not publicly. What happens behind closed doors is another thing but if you do here of one NHL player saying his peer is not worth the money on his latest contract please let me know.
So the Jets have some decisions to make, just like every other team with great players who are in demand and perform to expectation or beyond. In Lambert's article he talks about Blake Wheeler and being able to afford him when he becomes a free agent after the 2018-19 season. There's assumptions made but what's wrong is that he frames the option of keeping Tyler Myers as the alternative to keeping Blake Wheeler.
First Wheeler is a stud and an under appreciated one across the league but he's also going to have to come to terms with some things in his life too. Does he go for the cash or do other things matter, like winning? This year is pivotal for the Jets because they have to keep winning like last season despite not doing anything to really improve this off season. Stay a winner and give Wheeler a reason to stay and he might for the right price but if the Jets see that price as Wheeler taking concession for the good of the team then Chevy better preach that to a few other Jets players such as Trouba, Laine, Connor and Morrissey.
If the Jets have indeed modeled themselves after Nashville does that mean getting key players to take deals that help the team as much as it pays them?
I always ask this when thinking about Trouba's new deal (where is that deal anyway Chevy?) Is he the player that sets the next benchmark for contracts as top pairing D with modest offense?
If he isn't then is he 'about' the money or about the opportunity to win and earn, same question for Morrissey, Hellebuyck and Lowry too. Up next to answer that is Laine and Connor and of course Blake Wheeler.
The term 'hometown discount' is not one I prefer. I think a sensible approach to salary structure within the team is how the best GMs present their case for contracts when dealing with so many as Chevy will these next two season. It's worked in Nashville and in some ways Ron Hextall has been able to do some fine work with key pieces in Philly but they too have some concerns coming also like the Leafs and Lightning.
It's been said here and I will say it again, the Jets did not get to this point without a plan for how to deal with it. There will be bumps along the way and surely the Mason contract and subsequent injuries along with Hellebuyck's rise was not quite according to plan. That being said the Jets are a Kulikov and Myers removal from being in a good space.
Again, these are good problems but they are still problems. This is where the true value the GM will show up, by being able to stick handle these areas to lose the right players while adding affordable ones that don't affect performance. Being good for one year and taking a shot as the Jets did is fine but sustaining it is the true measure.
It will take compromise from all parties to make this work along with some hard decisions too but in the end this can all work, even with the RFA arbitration hearings looming for many Jets players.
Those will be reviewed in time but right now this team is not in trouble by any measure but it does have to move with caution and avoid doing the wrong deals.