The Winnipeg Jets spent $93 million this offseason retaining three of its key players — defenseman Zach Bogosian and forwards Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler.
To be accurate, though, the Jets spent that $93 million in a week.
Over a seven-day span in late July, Winnipeg dropped $23.5 million on Little, $33.6 million on Wheeler and $36 million on Bogosian, locking up the core of a team that — while talented — has yet to make the postseason since moving from Atlanta.
For GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, the decision to retain the trio was an easy one.
“I think you first have to evaluate where your group is,” Cheveldayoff said, as per NHL.com. “You have to show faith in them. You have to try and show some consistency from the ownership group and the organization that you have a plan in mind and stick to it so you’re not changing directions midstream.”
While the Jets aren’t changing midstream, they have altered their makeup heading into a pivotal 2013-14 season — their first in the Western Conference.
Cheveldayoff added depth up front by acquiring Michael Frolik from Chicago and Devin Setoguchi from Minnesota (both in exchange for picks) — at no small price, either. The pair will earn a combined $5.3 million next season, though both are UFAs at the end of the year.
The pair are an interesting fit in Winnipeg.
They fall within the current age of the team’s core (Frolik is 25; Setoguchi is 26) but bring more playoff experience than the likes of Bogosian, Little and Wheeler. Setoguchi has 53 career postseason contests, including a pair of Western Conference finals appearances with San Jose while Frolik has 34, and was a key contributor to Chicago’s 2013 Stanley Cup win.
They also represent a significant shift in how Winnipeg does business.
The Jets spent last season operating at $11 million under the cap. For next season, the club projects to have the league’s 11th-highest payroll — right behind the Rangers — and has made it very clear that ownership was dedicated to investing in a winner.
But will it pay off? Even Cheveldayoff doesn’t know.
“How close are we [to a Cup]? I don’t know — you have to see the product on the ice,” he explained.
“No awards, no trophies, no wins or losses happen in June, July, August and September. The real evaluation process starts when you drop the puck.”
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