While Jets fans wait for news on current restricted free agents like Jacob Trouba and Connor Hellebuyck, it doesn’t seem to be too early for others to look ahead to NEXT season and the potential list of free agents the club will have to deal with in 2019, the top of that list being the captain of the Jets, Blake Wheeler.
It seems rather ridiculous to look so far ahead when the Jets still have yet to really deal with the current free agent crop they have this summer, but such as the nature of the hockey world and the media that cover it. No sooner does one event happen, than we’re already on to the next thing.
Washington wins the 2018 Stanley Cup? Less than 48 hours after Ovechkin lifted the Cup, Vegas had odds out on the 2019 Cup. (btw, peep the Jets at 10/1 .. Might be worth throwing a few bucks on that right?)
The Maple Leafs sign John Tavares to a long term big money deal? Great, now how are the Leafs going to sign everyone else?
Oh and now that the big name free agents for this year – Tavares, Stastny (*sigh*), James van Riemsdyk and James Neal to name a few – are all signed, it’s time to look at the next free agent class and Ryan Lambert of Yahoo Sports is already looking at Winnipeg’s captain.
So the question becomes how much do you pay him, since he’ll be 32 to start the new deal, and what do you reasonably expect from him? Because if you’re committing multiple years and a raise to a player that far past 30, you might be in a bit of trouble sooner than later.
The Wheeler situation is for sure a tricky one. A long enough deal could make this one of Blake’s last as a pro and you’d have to think someone that co-led the league in assists, named to the NHL second all-star team and gathered some Hart Trophy attention would be looking to get PAID and with contracts signed around the July 1 date typically higher than average due to teams competing with each other to lure prize free agents, another strong season from Wheeler in the 2018-19 campaign could easily see him fetch six or even seven million a season over five or six years.
The contracts that Kevin Cheveldayoff hands out to the likes of Trouba, Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey should give all of us a bit of an indication of how next year may go with Wheeler, Laine and Kyle Connor. The Jets at the very least have some control over the RFA situations they have now and it’s very likely we see them hitting the ice with the Jets once training camp starts up.
It’s another story for Wheeler who could go from signing a deal that could be heavily scrutinized depending on term and amount, or the Jets could trade him at the deadline if they feel they can’t sign him, but for a team looking to contend for a long Cup playoff run that seems very unlikely, so they could in fact lose him to free agency with nothing to show in return.
(And for what it’s worth, you could say the same for Tyler Myers, although fans seem eager to trade him already and it may not be much of a stretch to think that once the deadline rolls around the Jets would in fact trade him to get picks or some sort of assets and the team may not even skip a beat, if they hadn’t earlier than then.)
Until Wheeler signs a new deal, Lambert’s peek at Winnipeg’s free agents to be could be just the start of multiple rounds of speculation that could creep into the season and into non-stop talk about what may happen with the Jets captain. Not unlike what happened two seasons ago when the Jets had a captain that was looking at a long term / big money deal. The longer it dragged on, the more talk increased.