Dustin Byfuglien

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Jacob Trouba could really make Jets pay with next contract

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This post is part of Jets Day on PHT…

Here’s something you come to realize if you nerd out about the league’s salary cap for long enough: not all bargain contracts are created equal.

Now, look, any GM worth his salt should be able to take advantage of those precious windows where players are exceeding the value of their deals. The 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks are the gold standard in that regard: they won that first contemporary Stanley Cup thanks in part to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane being on the last year of their rookie deals, allowing them that extra Dustin Byfuglien here and Brian Campbell there.

If a player is talented and healthy enough, you’ll eventually need to pay up. That’s why there’s some serious wisdom to locking down talented guys to longer deals when they’re especially young. (Just look at how ridiculous the deals look for, say, John Tavares and Duncan Keith.)

The Winnipeg Jets faced some serious contract impasses with Jacob Trouba and his agent Kurt Overhardt, yet eventually they enjoyed an eye-popping bargain. With the risk of sitting out a season hanging over his head, the RFA leverage was too much for Trouba, who signed for two years and $5 million.

Even with things oddly prorated, that’s a ludicrous steal for Trouba. And, of course, everyone said all the right things when a deal was reached, even as trade rumors festered into November 2016.

“I’ve committed to sign here,” Trouba said while confirming he’s rescinded his trade request, per the Winnipeg Sun. “When I signed that piece of paper, everything changed in my mind.”

A pessimist – and, possibly, a realist – might amend that last bit to “everything changed in my mind … for now.” (Possibly adding in some ominous music.)

When it comes to tough negotiations, we’ve seen some examples of short “bridge” deals that end up costly, and sometimes those same players end up traded somewhere else.

If you’re an emotionally vulnerable Jets fan, maybe just console yourself with Trouba remaining an RFA and scroll to a different post, because these examples might be less than ideal:

P.K. Subban: misses some of 2012-13, signs two-year, $5.75M deal with Montreal. Then he gets $9M per season for eight years, and traded to Nashville before 2016-17.

Ryan O'Reilly: strenuous negotiations lead to $6M at two years, making things awkward with the likes of Matt Duchene. Now makes $7.5M per year with Buffalo after being traded.

Ryan Johansen: Another Overhardt client whose relationship soured with his team. He was ultimately traded to Nashville, where he makes $8M per year thanks to that new deal.

(Note: Overhardt also represented Kyle Turris, who eventually left the Arizona Coyotes, who must wince every time he scores a big goal for the Ottawa Senators. As evidence that there’s another way, Overhardt appears to be Viktor Arvidsson‘s agent, so it’s not like he’ll outright refuse to sign longer deals that might ultimately benefit the teams involved. Of course, Arvidsson never had that contract-dispute-baggage with Nashville so …)

Now, before you claim that Trouba is far below those players, note that he has a season to compile more impressive counting stats with superior defensive partner(s) …. and he already shows potential from a “fancy stats” perspective. He seems to settle nicely into the top defenseman prototype, by HERO chart measures, as just one example:

With the right opportunities, Trouba could really drive up his value. Such motivation could be very beneficial for Winnipeg in 2017-18, but at what cost in the future?

In a recent edition of “The Hockey PDOcast,” Garret Hohl hypothesized that, while Trouba may compare to the likes of Seth Jones, he might end up costing the Jets more than the $5.4M per year that Jones receives with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Beyond sheer inflation, one might ascribe some of that to something of a bitterness tax. The Jets got their bargain and won that battle, but much like with Subban and others, a talented player might just win the war.

Winnipeg Jets are finally interesting

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This post is part of Jets Day on PHT…

Not only have the Winnipeg Jets been a pretty mediocre hockey team for most of their existence, they have also been a painfully dull team.

Nothing particularly exciting on the ice.

A front office that has rebuilt the team at a snails pace, seemingly refusing to make any sort of significant trade or free agent signing.

For the longest time no real difference maker of a player to build around because they were never quite bad enough to get a top-pick where a franchise player can be selected.

Slowly but surely — emphasis on slowly — that has all started to change for the Jets.

Just consider the core they have to build around now…

  • Patrik Laine, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, just put together one of the best rookie seasons for an 18-year-old in recent NHL memory with his 36-goal in 73 games performance. He is the cornerstone player the Jets have been desperate for. They finally got the right draft pick in the right year to land that type of player.
  • Mark Scheifele, just now entering his prime years in the NHL, was a point-per-game player this past season and looks as if he has developed into a threat to score 30 goals every season. He topped that mark a year ago and almost certainly would have done it the previous year had he not missed nine games due to injury.
  • Nikolaj Ehlers, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, had a breakout season in 2016-17 that saw him top the 25-goal and 60-point marks, while also playing an exciting style and making highlight reels due to his playmaking ability and speed.

That is an exciting young trio of forwards that not only play a visually pleasing style of hockey, but are also extremely productive. It is a great young core to build around.

Along with that group also have a solid stable of veterans led by the always underrated Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. There really is a lot of talent on this team and it produced one of the best offenses in the league.

Unfortunately they also had one of the worst defensive performances in the league. If nothing else it made their games some of the highest scoring in the league, making them the team to watch if you like offense. In a league where the average game saw only 5.5 goals per game, Jets games were putting more than six goals per game on the board. That is probably not what they want to see as it isn’t always the best recipe for consistent, sustained success, but it’s at least brought some excitement to a team that that for years had none outside of whatever chants its crowd could come up with.

It’s taken a few years, but the Jets finally have enough young pieces in place that they might be able to start building something of significance. At least as it relates to their forwards.

They just need to find a way to keep the puck out of their own net.

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo returning to ice after health scare

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Here’s some heartwarming hockey news for you: apparently Kyle Okposo is playing hockey tonight.

Considering his late-season health scare, it was promising enough that the Buffalo Sabres expect him to be ready by training camp. But in mid-July? This is even more promising.

Apparently he’s one of many NHL-relevant participants in … “Da Beauty League?”

Again, there are a lot of familiar names, as you can see based on this lineup sheet:

Wow. Along with Okposo, there are many other noteworthy participants, including Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, and Zach Parise.

Here’s more insight on the event, via their “About Us” section:

Da Beauty League was established in the Fall of 2015 by local business people in an effort to bring professional hockey to Minnesota on a year round basis. Da Beauty League centers itself on bringing fans fast paced professional hockey in a casual environment. For the players, Da Beauty League serves as a training ground for the players as they prepare for their upcoming professional seasons. Da Beauty League provides fans with 3 fast paced regular season games played out of Braemar Arena on a nightly basis during the summer. Fans will experience a relaxed atmosphere to watch hockey and enjoy typical intermission entertainment while watching the best hockey talent in the world.

Really, though, it’s just great to see that Okposo’s apparently feeling close to 100 percent.

(H/T to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.)

Jets sign Kulikov to three-year deal

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Winnipeg added some depth on defense to open free agency, agreeing to terms with former Sabres d-man Dmitry Kulikov.

Per TSN, it’s a three-year pact at $4.33 million per.

The deal comes after a disappointing campaign with the Sabres. Not only did Kulikov struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games.

Despite all that, he generated plenty of interest on the free agent market and generated interest from a dozen teams, according to his agent. Presumably, the hope in Winnipeg is that Kulikov can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Remember, Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

In Winnipeg, he’ll (presumably) slot in behind the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, meaning he’ll likely be a bottom-pairing guy.

 

Burns edges Karlsson for his first Norris Trophy (video)

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One would maybe say that Brent Burns won his first Norris Trophy by the hair on his chin … but then that would mean by, you know, a lot.

Anyway, Burns edged Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman to be named “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”

As expected, his speech and beard were equally fantastic, including Burns’ hope that his kids aren’t “chasing around wildebeests” in Texas.

(?)

Burns topped defensemen with 29 goals and 76 points. Karlsson generated 17 goals and 71 points while Hedman 16 goals and 72 points, rounding out a true three-horse race between high-scoring, fantastic all-around defensemen.

Here are the voting results.

2016-2017 Norris Trophy Voting

Pts. 1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th
1. Brent Burns, SJS 1437 (96-61-10-0-0)
2. Erik Karlsson, OTT 1292 (63-86-9-4-3)
3. Victor Hedman, TBL 728 (3-13-106-21-14)
4. Duncan Keith, CHI 384 (2-4-19-70-31)
5. Ryan Suter, MIN 175 (2-1-9-25-28)
6. Shea Weber, MTL 100 (1-0-6-11-27)
7. Drew Doughty, LAK 51 (0-0-1-10-16)
8. Mark Giordano, CGY 41 (0-0-1-11-3)
9. Dougie Hamilton, CGY 23 (0-0-0-6-5)
10. Justin Schultz, PIT 22 (0-0-2-2-6)
11. Roman Josi, NSH 19 (0-1-0-2-6)
12. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG 15 (0-0-2-1-2)
13. Jared Spurgeon, MIN  14 (0-0-2-1-1)
14. Kevin Shattenkirk, WSH 9 (0-0-0-1-6)
15. Torey Krug, BOS 7 (0-1-0-0-0)
16. Alex Pietrangelo, STL 7 (0-0-0-1-4)
17. Ryan McDonagh, NYR 5 (0-0-0-1-2)
18. Seth Jones, CBJ 4 (0-0-0-0-4)
Zach Werenski, CBJ 4 (0-0-0-0-4)
20. Jaccob Slavin, CAR 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
21. Cam Fowler, ANA 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Dmitry Orlov, WSH 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS 1 (0-0-0-0-1)

Click here for the full history of Norris Trophy winners.