This article is part of our Cap Compliance series.
While the current season remains on hiatus, there is no time like the present to start looking ahead to next year. Over the next several weeks, we'll take a look at the cap situation for all 31 NHL clubs, including restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents and even potential buyouts. Then, we'll play a little armchair General Manager by providing our recommendations for how we would approach the upcoming 2020-21 campaign if we were running the club.
In our most recent Twitter poll, the Winnipeg Jets came in third place and will close out the week.
2020-21 Cap Situation
The Jets currently have nine forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender under contract for next season at a price tag of $65,922,855. Assuming a flat cap of $81.5 million, this leaves the club with $15,577,145 in cap space and nine spots under the 23-man roster to fill.
Restricted Free Agents
AJ Scholz: All four of these guys should be competing for consistent spots on the 23-man roster heading into the 2020-21 campaign but only Roslovic is likely to get more than his qualifying offer. Harkins and Niku both played less than 30 games this year and logged relatively minimal ice time when they were in the lineup. Meanwhile, Appleton managed just eight points in 46 contests, which likely won't be enough to earn a better contract. Were it not for the league going on hiatus, Roslovic would have reached the 30-point mark this season and set a career high in goals (12). The winger should be capable of garnering close to $1 million AAV for 2-3 years on a deal that maintains his RFA status.
Kyle Riley: Roslovic has proven to be a nice middle-six option that can chip in on the power play over the past two campaigns, so he's due for a sizable raise this offseason. He doesn't have true top-six upside, but he's still worth significantly more than $1 million AAV in my opinion. I think both sides would be happy with a three-year, $6 million extension. Harkins broke out to the tune of seven goals and 31 points with AHL Manitoba before getting his first look with the big club in mid-December. The 23-year-old pivot proved to be a solid bottom-six option for the Jets, notching seven points in 29 games, but he isn't arbitration eligible, and his lack of NHL experience will work against him at the bargaining table. In other words, his QO should get it done. Had he not missed 22 games with a broken foot from late October to mid-December, Appleton would have been a true, full-time player for the Jets this campaign, so he's worth extending with some term as a reliable bottom-sixer. I think a three-year, $3 million deal should do the trick. Niku only has 48 games of NHL experience under his belt, and he isn't arbitration eligible, so I think Winnipeg will simply extend the 23-year-old blueliner his QO to see if he can become the full-time NHLer the organization seems to believe he has the potential to be in 2020-21 before offering him a multi-year extension.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Cody Eakin ($3.85 million) Nick Shore ($750,000) Logan Shaw ($700,000) Mark Letestu ($700,000) Gabriel Bourque ($700,000) Dmitry Kulikov ($4.3 million) Nathan Beaulieu ($1 million) Dylan DeMelo ($900,000) Luca Sbisa ($750,000) Anthony Bitetto ($700,000) Laurent Brossoit ($1.225 million)
AJ Scholz: With Bryan Little dealing with an ear injury, the club needed another center for the postseason but should be able to let Eakin hit the open market and avoid spending close to $4 million AAV for a bottom-six forward. Allowing Eakin to walk will likely necessitate keeping Shore around for a bump in pay and perhaps more than one year of term, something in the neighborhood of a two-year, $1.6 million deal. By re-signing Shore, the team can let the veteran Letestu go as well, assuming the 35-year-old is still looking to keep playing. At this point, if Shaw and Bourque are willing to ink two-way contracts, then they're worth having around, however, spots on the 23-man roster are unlikely to be available considering the emergence of Jack Roslovic and Mason Appleton. On the blue line, the priority will be DeMelo who is a solid shutdown defender that is capable of chipping in offensively from time to time. In terms of a comparable contract, the two-year, $5.7 million deal that Jake McCabe signed in August of 2019 would be a fair offer for DeMelo as well. By keeping DeMelo, the organization can also move on from the overpaid Kulikov, instead signing the significantly cheaper Sbisa, who offers about the same level of offensive production and could be retained for less than $1 million. Whether to stick with Beaulieu will ultimately depend on how the organization feels about the development of Sami Niku, Tucker Poolman and Ville Heinola. As long as at least one of them is NHL ready, Beaulieu won't need to be re-signed. Between the pipes, there isn't any reason to move away from Brossoit, who was a capable stand-in this year as he went 6-7-1 with a .895 save percentage in 19 outings. A three-year, $4.5 million deal gives the netminder some security in term and a modest pay increase.
Kyle Riley: Eakin's a solid two-way player, but his scoring output simply doesn't support his current contract, and I expect a forward-needy club to offer him more than he's worth this offseason, so I don't see him returning to the Jets next year. Shore's scoring dipped in a big way this season, but he's proven to be a reliable fourth-line center over the past four seasons despite playing for six different clubs over that span, so he's worth keeping around on a slight raise. A two-year, $1.8 million deal should get it done. Shaw isn't cut out for a full-time NHL role, especially on a team like the Jets, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a one-way offer from a forward-needy team in free agency, so I don't see a scenario in which Winnipeg re-signs him, as the club would need to get it done on a two-way deal in order for it to make sense. Letestu has only appeared in nine top-level games over the past two campaigns and will be 36 years old next season, so there's no reason for the Jets to make a run at re-signing him. Bourque was a decent rotational option for Winnipeg this year, notching six points in 52 games while averaging just 8:36 of ice time per contest, so if he's willing to come back for a minimal raise (one-year, $725,000), he's worth keeping around. Kulikov is a decent top-four defender, but I don't think he's worth the $4.3 million he made this season, and he'll likely get that (or a little bit more) on the open market, so I think the Jets would be wise to let him head elsewhere this offseason. With Kulikov out of the picture, re-signing Beaulieu will be imperative for Winnipeg. He'll also be far cheaper – a two-year, $2.5 million contract should do the trick for the bottom-pairing blueliner. DeMelo is probably the best player in this list, so re-signing him to a multi-year deal should be priority No. 1 for the Jets front office this offseason. He's a great fit on Winnipeg's top pairing alongside Josh Morrissey, but he doesn't contribute much offensively, so his new deal shouldn't break the bank. I think something in the range of a three-year, $9.75 million deal should get it done. Sbisa and Bitetto are pretty similar in terms of what they bring to the table, so I only think one of them needs to be re-signed as a depth option. The Jets should simply target whichever is cheaper. A one-year, $850,000 should be enough to retain one of the veteran blueliners. Although his numbers from this season leave a lot to be desired, Brossoit proved to be a capable backup behind Connor Hellebuyck last year, so I don't see any reason to move on from him. He also shouldn't cost much. A two-year, $3 million extension should be enough to keep the 27-year-old netminder in the fold.
Minor-League Free Agents *Who appeared in an NHL game in 2019-20
AJ Scholz: In the minors with AHL Manitoba, Suess and Chibisov both reached the 25-point mark but combined for just three NHL games with the Jets. Suess will be handed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer while Chibisov figures to see a modest uptick for another year or two of term. The two will likely start the year in the minors yet should sit atop the list of potential call-ups throughout the year.
Kyle Riley: Chibisov is 27 and Suess is 26 years old, and they've only combined for three games of NHL experience at this stage in their careers, so cheap, two-way deals should get it done for both players.
AJ Scholz: The Jets have a lot of players pushing for more ice time from their minor league system, including Niku, Appleton and Heinola, which will likely allow the team to save some cash for the open market. The above deals would leave the team with $5.2 million in cap space, enough to go after a top-four blueliner to partner with Neal Pionk. A couple of free agent candidates include T.J. Brodie, Cody Ceci or Sami Vatanen. In addition, Winnipeg could opt to bank that money for the trade deadline or when it will have to re-sign Patrik Laine following the 2020-21 season.
Kyle Riley: With the plan I outlined above, Winnipeg would enter next season with approximately $2.5 million in available cap space. That won't leave the Jets with much room to make moves on the open market, but it should enable them to pick up a nice complimentary piece at the trade deadline if they feel like they're in a position to make a run at the Cup.