On Wednesday, the team announced a new deal for pending RFA defender Neal Pionk, that will see the soon-to-be arbitration-bound blueliner stick around town for another four seasons, at a yearly cost of $5.875 million per.
Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has had himself a summer of redemption. Following moves to bring in defensive stalwarts Brenden Dillon (from Washington) and Nate Schmidt (from Vancouver), as well as sign restricted free agent defenceman Logan Stanley to a cheap, two-year bridge deal, the long-tenured GM has since cemented his bid for the league’s ‘GM of the Year’ award.
On Wednesday, the Jets announced a new deal for fellow pending RFA defender Neal Pionk, that will see the soon-to-be arbitration-bound blueliner stick around town for another four seasons, at a yearly cost of $5.875 million per. The four-year, $23.5 million deal comes in significantly lower than most imagined the 26-year-old would demand at an arbitration hearing.
Credit to the Jets for identifying the raw projectible talent of this guy, who had a good highlight reel but had gotten smoked in basically all respects of the game in his first two seasons pic.twitter.com/1HO42LIdX9
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) August 11, 2021
Scheduled to present his case on what would have been Friday the thirteenth, Pionk agreed to a deal slightly lower than his asking price, as he, too, knew the cap crunch that Chevy and Co. have found themselves sitting in. Now with Stanley and Pionk having nailed down contracts, the lone remaining RFA to sign a fresh deal is that of forward Andrew Copp.
Currently operating at a cap surplus with injured forward Bryan Little still on the team’s payroll, Winnipeg will shift his contract to its long-term injured reserve once again, making some room for Copp. Should the Jets opt to buy out defenceman Nathan Beaulieu they will have $4.3 million set aside for Copp, but if he stays with the club, that number is cut down significantly.
Clearly, Andrew Copp will want top dollar for his season of work that garnered a career-high in goals (15), assists (24), points (39), and penalty minutes (20), while skating in a career-low 55 games. But should his asks go to arbitration (court date set for August 26), the team will likely be in trouble, money-wise.
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If the Jets were to follow the game plan put in place by the Vegas Golden Knights, to which the team dresses a smaller roster than the typical 20 players, Winnipeg could manage to get by with a player such as defenceman Nelson Nogier serving on a league-minimum salary to fulfill the league’s demands on roster size.
If Copp and the Jets cannot find a way to meet in the middle on a dollar value, Chevy will need to get right back to business to sort out his cap-strapped roster for ways to either manipulate the salary cap or find some wiggle room by way of a trade. Either way, he has proven that this summer has been a season of change on the team’s back-end, as a way of showing his colleagues league-wide that the Winnipeg Jets mean business in 2021-22.