Winnipeg Jets

Report: ‘Nothing more than preliminary discussions’ between Jets, Byfuglien

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Here’s the latest from the Free Press on talks between Winnipeg and d-man Dustin Byfuglien, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent next July:

Byfuglien, like [Andrew] Ladd, is also a pending UFA at the send of next season. According to the player’s agent, nothing more than preliminary discussions regarding the big defenseman have taken place.

Ladd is the No. 1 priority and must be the first domino to fall.

It’s expected that Ladd, the team’s captain, will likely get his desired extension (the Free Press figures it’ll be “north of $6 million” annually, and “in the range of $40 million” overall.) At 29 and coming off a career-high 62 points, he’s vitally important to the Jets and looks to be paid accordingly.

Which brings us to Byfuglien.

Though he’s coming off a stellar campaign of his own — 45 points in 69 games, an All-Star nod — Byfuglien plays on one of the NHL’s deepest bluelines. Tyler Myers (25 years old) and Jacob Trouba (21) represent the future, while Tobias Enstrom and Mark Stuart are locked in through 2018. All told, the Jets currently have 10 blueliners on NHL deals — Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba, Enstrom, Stuart, Grant Clitsome, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot — and a pair of bright young prospects in Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek on the horizon.

So it’s fair to suggest something has to give.

Byfuglien’s heading into the last of a five-year, $26 million deal that pays $5.2M annually. Though he’s now officially on the wrong side of 30 — he’ll be 31 next March — Byfuglien likely still has high value across the league, and scored a handful of Norris votes this season.

So, the big question: If the Jets can’t afford to pay Byfuglien, especially after the Ladd extension, can they afford to let him hit free agency and lose an asset for nothing? GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already did that this summer with Michael Frolik, who flew the coop to sign in Calgary.

Can’t imagine Chevy wants that to happen again.

Ehrhoff will take another one-year contract: agent

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Despite his brief stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is willing to roll the dice on another one-year contract.

Ehrhoff’s agent, Rick Curran, told PHT in an email that the 33-year-old unrestricted free agent “doesn’t mind having the flexibility of a single year commitment. He’s confident in his ability to provide a valued role to the right team. If there’s a mutual fit, an extension will likely follow.”

Ehrhoff signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Pens last summer, not long after being bought out by the Sabres. After registering just 14 points in 49 games, in addition to suffering multiple concussions, it may be a one-year deal is the most he’ll be able to get anyway. (He’s apparently been give a “clean bill of health.”)

Curran insists “there’s continued serious interest” in both Ehrhoff and another UFA client, forward Jiri Tlusty.

“I would expect the log jam to clear a little once teams have a better handle on signing their remaining RFA players and know how much they have left in the till to spend,” wrote Curran. “Meanwhile, both players are content to remain patient until an appropriate offer hits the table from someone who will obviously be the right fit.”

Related: UFA of the Day: Christian Ehrhoff

Crowded blueline: Jets ink Postma to two-year, $1.775M deal

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Having already re-upped with Adam Pardy and Ben Chiarot this summer, the Jets retained another depth defenseman on Friday by giving Paul Postma a two-year, $1.775 million extension.

The deal, which carries an $887,500 cap hit, comes after Postma appeared in a career-high 42 games last year, averaging 14:08 TOI per night. The 26-year-old was a lineup regular for the first three months of the season, but phased out in the second half of the campaign due to healthy scratches and a lower-body injury.

This extension puts Postma firmly back in the mix, however, and it’s a crowded mix…

Right now, there are 10 blueliners in the fold: Pardy, Chiarot, Postma, Trouba, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Mark Stuart, Jay Harrison and Grant Clitsome, who is coming off back surgery. While it’s not surprising to see Winnipeg stockpile bodies — injuries ravaged the defense last year — it’ll be interesting to see if the Jets can carry this many contracts, or if a trade will eventually be orchestrated.

Worth mentioning the Jets also have touted prospect Josh Morrissey, the 13th overall pick in 2013, on the horizon.

Report: Kopitar, Kings in ‘early stages of negotiations’ for extension

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Kings center Anze Kopitar is “in the early stages of negotiations for what will probably be a lengthy contract extension,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Kopitar, along with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, headline the top pending unrestricted free agents of next summer. Also in that group are Eric Staal, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Kesler, Jakub Voracek, Brent Seabrook and Milan Lucic.

For the Kings, if Kopitar re-signs, it’ll be another long-term contract on the books. Los Angeles currently has seven players locked up through at least 2019-20.

Kopitar, 27, will almost certainly become the Kings’ highest cap hit. At present, that belongs to Drew Doughty, at $7 million through 2018-19.

Related: Toews, Bergeron, Kopitar are the Selke Trophy finalists

Jets sign Brendan Lemieux, Claude’s son, to entry-level deal

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The Winnipeg Jets have locked in one of the young prospects acquired in the Evander Kane trade, inking Brendan Lemieux to a three-year, entry-level deal on Friday.

Details:

Picked 31st overall by Buffalo at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux spent last year in OHL Barrie and performed well, scoring 41 goals and 60 points in 57 games. And if you’re wondering if Brendan shares anything in common with Claude, do consider he’s racked up 290 PIM combined over the last two years.

Jets fans are getting their first real look at Lemieux today, too. Winnipeg’s prospects camp gets underway at the MTS Iceplex, and should feature former first-round picks Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic and Joel Armia who, like Lemieux, also came to Winnipeg in the Kane trade.