Jets Signings Highlight Burgeoning Trend in Salary Capped NHL

By
Updated: July 31, 2013
wheeler little

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Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Chevaldayoff has had a busy couple of weeks, signing emerging stars Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Zach Bogosian to new, long-term contracts. Many Jets fans were relieved with the news that their young core is now locked in, but the cost for these three players alone has to be a bit concerning.

Wheeler alone got $33 million over six years, which works out to a $5.6 million cap hit. Lofty numbers for a player that has only one 20-goal season under his belt by the age of 26. Little’s deal was a bit smaller ($4.7 per season), but similar in that he’s only scored 20 goals or more twice in his career. Generally speaking, most players that warrant a salary in the five million range are proven scorers, something that Wheeler and Little have yet to accomplish in their careers. It’s a similar story with Evander Kane, who signed a six year, $31 million deal last season after essentially one pretty good offensive year, though in Kane’s defense he’s only 21 years old and looks to be getting better as he matures.

The Bogosian story is a little bit different. Long lauded as having the potential for being one of the best defensemen in the game, he’s going to get paid like it. But again, $5.1 million for a 23-year old who has been up and down to this point in his career is a bit steep. All told, that’s a total investment of $124.6 million dollars for four players that have yet to win much of anything in their careers.

It seems to point to an interesting trend that’s emerged in a salary capped NHL, paying for potential. In an era where cost certainty is more important than ever, it’s a huge gamble for the Jets to lock in a core group of players that has only occasionally shown flashes of brilliance during their careers. If players like Wheeler, Little and Kane can live up to their potential, the deals will look fantastic in two or three years. Especially with the salary cap skyrocketing, as many people suspect. However if any one of them falters, the Jets are stuck with an unmovable contract and a huge headache.

It’s clear the Jets are trying to build their team in the image of recent Cup champions like Pittsburgh or Chicago. Collect young talent, sign them to long term deals and hope they can get their team to the top. However, one major difference is the young stars on those other teams have all proven they can win, with multiple NHL awards to their credit. Certainly nobody on the Jets can say the same. Again, paying for potential instead of results. If you think that’s a good idea, ask Edmonton how it’s working out for them.

As it stands right now, with less than a million left in cap space, it looks like the Jets roster is pretty much set for next season. They have three defensemen and six forwards making $4.4 million or more, and only one (Kane) doesn’t have some form of a NMC attached to their deals. Chevaldayoff better hope that he’s made the right choices here, because if this team doesn’t develop into a playoff quality club soon, there’s going to be a huge mess to clean up in Winnipeg after he’s fired.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Rook

    July 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Bad article, Ken. If you’re going to put contracts on blast like that, the absolute least you should be willing to do is research comparable players and contracts.

    In short, this article is lacking facts and embarrasingly lacking in research, especially with regards to comparing the players in question to similar players / contracts. Consider the following:

    Blake Wheeler was 24th overall in terms of P/60 (points per 60 minutes of ice time). He came in at 2.60. He also came in at 11th overall in G/60 (goals per 60 minutes), with 1.38.

    Bryan Little was 79th overall. He came in at 2.05 P/60.

    If there are 3 players on a 1st line and there are 30 teams, it stands to reason that the top 90 point producers would be 1st line players, correct? With Andrew Ladd clocking in at 7th in the league in P/60 this past year (!!), no one can say the Jets #1 line isn’t a “true” #1 line. It’s not perfect, but they are extremely effective. I would say that Wheeler and Little got fair market value for what they contributed.

    Don’t forget that despite being the lowest point producer on the line, Little is leaned on very heavily for defensive work as well, such as when he took over Slater’s defensive load while he was injured last season.

    If you’re still curious, there are far more than enough stats that cemented LLW’s status as a top 1st line in the NHL that I’d be willing to provide, as you clearly have no idea where to find them.

    In terms of defencemen, Bogosian was tasked with shutting down other teams’ top players; he ranked 17th overall in Corsl Rel QoC, which is used as a rough barometer of how good opposing players were. On top of this, he ranked 24th for all D in P/60 and 4th for G/60. He played the role of a #1D and did it well.

    The best argument for the Bogo contract being an overpayment stems from comparisons to players like McDonagh (comparisons Mr. Hill was too lazy to make), and even those fall flat. While I freely admit the value of the contract is contingent of what sort of potential you see in Bogo, his contract buys 5 UFA years whereas McDonagh’s buys 3. Unlike most 23 year olds, Bogo is finishing his bridge contract due to Atlanta’s prospect rushing, which puts him in a unique position with regards to UFA.

    I’d like to address your conclusion last: “Chevaldayoff better hope that he’s made the right choices here, because if this team doesn’t develop into a playoff quality club soon, there’s going to be a huge mess to clean up.”

    While it is valid to suggest that the Jets need to make the playoffs soon, the implications here are insulting to the Jets and revealing about the author. The Jets were eliminated from playoff contention in the second intermission of their LAST game of the season, and have done nothing but improve this off-season. Considering that they’ve also moved into the 14-team Western Conference, that sentence reveals more about you and your knowledge of the Jets situation than it does provide any actual insight.

    I don’t read this site often and I’ve got to admit this quality of article is not helping. I understand that you’ve got something to say and you want to express your opinion but you have to put in some sort of effort or research to back up those opinions because ignorance like this is incredibly frustrating to read. You’ve got a soapbox, do the rest of us a favour and put in the extra effort to be professional.

    I mean really, if you want to look into players that don’t deserve 5M+ contracts for 7 years, you should probably be starting with the Maple Leafs. Don’t blame the Jets for inflation when you’ve got contracts like Clarkson and Clowe’s floating around.

    • Ken Hill

      August 2, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for the response, I honestly appreciate it.
      While I don’t deny that all the players in my article had pretty decent seasons last year, I was trying to look at it from an overall career trajectory standpoint. There’s no doubt that all of the aforementioned are trending upwards, but I worry that at least one of those contracts might look bad in a few seasons. The point is that it’s a risk for Chevaldayoff to commit to that kind of money, and especially that kind of term, to players that haven’t, to this point in their careers, shown consistent brilliance.

      Also I should mention that the reason I singled out the Jets was because they were the most recent example of signing multiple big money, long term deals to their RFAs. The truth is that this is happening all over the league. While some fans and teams may feel very happy to get these young guys locked down, I feel that the entire phenomenon is a bit concerning. It used to be that guys didn’t get this kind of money until they were 27, 28 years old, but now it’s happening right after their entry level contracts. The concern is that it’s creating a class imbalance among the players, and also messing up some team’s salary cap structures. Look at the Sharks for example, who signed Couture and Pavelski to big deals, but may have forced Thornton and Marleau out of a job/money by doing so.

      In the end, though it may in fact work out for the Jets, the whole concept of paying for potential makes me feel a bit uneasy.

      Again, I’m honestly grateful for your criticisms. I admit that I’m a bit new to the world of blogging, (and advanced stats for that matter), so I’ll take your words to heart and try to use them to improve myself.

      • Bill

        August 3, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        With this response to Rook’s comments you have earned yourself a dedicated reader Mr. Hill

        • Ken Hill

          August 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

          Cheers! I honestly accept the criticisms he posted, just another way to improve my writing.

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