Following the completion of Tucker Poolman and Marko Dano‘s contracts, the Jets still have five restricted free agents to extend. I’ll dive into how they should go about signing these players, as well as what their roles should be in the 2018-19 season.
The importance of Josh Morrissey moving forward cannot be understated. The uncertainty of Jacob Trouba’s future coupled with an aging Dustin Byfuglien means that Josh is the only surefire long term option that the Jets have for their top pair.
With that being said, some certainty moving forward would be nice, which is why I’d prefer Morrissey to be locked up sooner rather than later. Bridge deals are less popular than ever before, plus, Kevin Cheveldayoff knows what he has in Josh. He’s established himself as a member of the coach’s most trusted defense pair. There should be no concerns over his play moving forward.
Brett Pesce comes to mind as Josh’s closest comparable. Last year, the Hurricanes extended him to a six-year deal worth $4.025M a season. With that contract in mind, plus the recent salary cap increase, I’d expect Josh to sign a similar deal with the same term, but an AAV closer to $4.5M.
The only way Morrissey should be signing a bridge deal is if Chevy plans on adding more salary this season (think deadline acquisition). With $10.239M in cap space, he can afford a long-term Morrissey contract and cover all Jets bonuses.
The Jets 13th forward spot is currently vacated, and Nic Petan will be 24 years old by season’s end. The Jets are starting to approach “now or never” territory with Petan, so that spot should probably have his name attached. He’s proven to excel when paired with accomplished players, while the likes of Chris Thorburn and Brandon Tanev have historically impeded his ability to produce.
With that in mind, I’d love to see him finally crack a permanent spot in the Jets top 9, ideally on a line with Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. Wheeler is a special talent that can drive offense exceptionally well from the wing. He can do the heavy lifting, while he and Petan with their formidable play-making instincts can feed Connor to another 30 goal campaign.
Petan has also had powerplay success on the half wall. He’s only two seasons removed from being a top three point per minute scorer on the Jets PP. I’d love to keep him around, but if he’s not part of this team’s long term plans, putting him on the second unit can jack up his point totals and thus, jack up his trade value.
Expect Petan to sign something similar to the deal Dano was just inked to: one year at $800,000.
I personally love the play of JC Lipon. He is phenomenal at attacking the puck and interrupting plays. I view him as a perfectly fine 4th liner that would fit well with the likes of Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry on a checking line.
Unfortunately for Lipon, the Jets are stacked with forward depth, making him low man on the totem pole. While I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him make the team, I’d rather a 4th line wing spot go to someone like Dano or Petan, both of whom provide more of an offensive spark. Copp and Lowry are already elite defensively, so an offensive talent would make their line more well-rounded.
A few years ago, if you would have asked me who the Jets goaltending tandem would be in 2018, I’d have told you Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie. Helly has obviously lived up to expectations, but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Comrie. With a mediocre AHL sv% of .910 since 2015, topped with a handful of shaky NHL starts, Comrie is beginning to look very ordinary.
He’ll get a chance to compete with the recently signed Laurent Brossoit for the Jets backup position, though I won’t be surprised if he starts the season with Manitoba.
Regardless of the outcome in that competition, backup goaltending is shaping up to be one of the Jets biggest weaknesses in 2018.
Sent Winnipeg’s way from Anaheim in the Chase De Leo trade, Kerdiles moved up and down the San Diego Gulls top 9 last season. A respectable forward with injury struggles, he’s nothing more than a decent AHL winger for this organization.
Expect him and the aforementioned minor league players to sign a base salary between $650,000-$800,000, with a minors salary between $70,000-$100,000.