Archive for August, 2012

Still waiting for Kane deal

- August 20th, 2012

It appears the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane still haven’t closed the gap in their negotiations on a new deal for the restricted free agent.

Although it’s less than a month before the current CBA is set to expire, there simply hasn’t been any tangible urgency to get this deal closed, which doesn’t mean it’s not a priority for either side.

Could the NHL-NHLPA labour negotiations be playing a role in that? Sure, but we don’t think it’s a huge factor in the process, at least not yet.

It’s important to remember that defenceman Zach Bogosian (an RFA last summer who didn’t have arbitration rights) didn’t sign his deal until a couple of days before training camp officially opened, so it’s a bit early to really fret.

The Jets want to lock up Kane in a new deal, preferably a multiyear deal and although GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t talking about the negotiations publicly, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal that lasts somewhere between four and six years.

Under the current CBA, Kane would be free to become an unrestricted free agent after four more seasons (giving him seven seasons of service under his belt) and since he’s an August birthday, he’d only be 24 when he became a UFA.

It’s natural to think that Kane’s camp is most comfortable with a four-year deal but they’d probably be open to tacking on an additional year or two to ensure the left-winger stays in the fold a bit longer. Historically speaking though, buying those extra UFA years has been known to drive up the price.

But how much would extra would it cost the Jets?

That’s the multi-million dollar question right now.

We’ve thrown out the comparables before, ranging from Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks at just over $5 million per season on five-year deals to John Tavares of the New York Islanders, who comes in at $5.5 million for six seasons.

There have been a few other deals signed during the past few weeks that some folks are using as a barometer as well and here are those examples:

Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers: 6 years, $28.5 million ($4.75 million cap hit)

Wayne Simmonds, Flyers, 6 years, $23.85 million ($3.975 million cap hit)

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, 6 years, $27 million ($4.5 million cap hit)

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes, 6 years, $34.35 million ($5.725 million cap hit)

Each of these four examples is merely to show that six-year deals are still an option, although length of contracts is one of the sticking points in the CBA negotiations (owners are said to want five as the maximum going forward).

All four players offer different skill sets and intangibles, but they all bring plenty to the table as gifted hockey players.

You would expect that Kane’s camp (agent Craig Oster of Newport Sports) is hoping to pull in a number closer to Skinner, while the Jets would probably prefer to stay closer to $4.5 million per season, depending on the term.

All that’s left is for the gap to be bridged as negotiations go to the next level.

To this point, we don’t think a line has been drawn in the sand by either side and at the end of the day, it probably makes sense for both sides to meet somewhere in the middle.

But that’s up for the folks involved in the negotiation to decide and when they do so is anybody’s guess.

We’re not in the camp that believes Kane is afraid to make a long-term commitment to the Jets organization because he wants the glitz and glamour of playing in a bigger city that might offer more off-ice endorsements and things of that nature.

And by signing D-man Toby Enstrom to a five-year extension worth $5.75 million per season, the Jets have shown once again that they’re not afraid to ink important pieces of their core to long-term deals for significant dollars.

That’s why we’re sticking with the premise that it’s only a matter of time before the Kane deal is going to get done.

Once the two sides find a number that is comfortable to both of them, that is.

From where we sit, it’s looking more and more that it will take somewhere around five million dollars per season (give or take a few hundred thousand dollars) in order to get that done.

As the saying goes, stay tuned.

When will Machacek sign?

- August 10th, 2012

We understand it’s only August, but the Winnipeg Jets still have a pair of restricted free agents left to sign.

Everyone knows who the high-profile one is (if you don’t, it’s Evander Kane), but did you remember that right-winger Spencer Machacek is the second guy who needs to sign on the dotted line?

We understand why Kane’s deal is taking so long (both sides are in the process of making a lengthy and substantial commitment to one another), but it’s a tad curious that Machacek still hasn’t signed yet.

The Jets, by rule, don’t generally discuss contract negotiations and we haven’t been able to get in touch with Machacek’s agent either, so we can merely offer our two cents here.

However, if you put two and two together, it’s likely that Machacek’s representatives are seeking a one-way contract for the gritty forward, who managed to put up two goals and nine points in 13 games with the Jets last season, many of which saw him used sparingly on the fourth line.

Naturally, the question should be asked, is Machacek worth a one-way contract?

During his final recall, Machacek produced at close to a point-per-game clip. He also brings some grit to the table as well.

However, coming into last season, Machachek had no points in 12 games over two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers.

His American Hockey League numbers have been really good (eclipsing 20 goals on three occasions with the Chicago Wolves), but he’s yet to play anywhere close to a full season in the NHL.

With the St. John’s IceCaps, Machacek had 18 goals and 50 points in 61 games to lead the team in points and tie for second with Patrice Cormier on the team in goals (former Manitoba Moose sniper Jason King had 22 to top the team).

Our best guess is that Machacek is seeking a one-way deal because centre Aaron Gagnon (who played seven games with the Jets and 63 with the IceCaps) has one for next season as part of a two-year pact he signed as a free agent last summer.

Machacek, 22, probably has his best opportunity to claim a full-time NHL roster spot this season, but he won’t be able to do so without a contract.

You have to think a deal will get done before long, but whether or not Machacek gets a one-way deal will be interesting to monitor.

We don’t expect Machacek to produce at close to a point-per-game clip next season, but he could be a sound contributor with his blend of skill and sandpaper.

With the improvements the Jets have made to the roster, Machacek should still battle for work on the fourth line and could see some time on the third as well, depending on how things shake down.

He’s also shown he can jump up and fill in on a scoring line when the Jets need a spark.

With that in mind, Machacek still needs to prove himself at the NHL-level, which is why he’ll likely have to sign a two-way deal this summer.

 

Hockey News picks Jets to finish 14th

- August 9th, 2012

The early-season predictions from The Hockey News came out earlier this week and much to the chagrin of many Winnipeg Jets fans, the publication has chosen the new-and-improved Jets to finish 14th (or second last) in the NHLs Eastern Conference standings.

That’s one spot ahead of the New York Islanders and one behind the Montreal Canadiens, in case you were wondering.

Our initial reaction was a simple shoulder shrug, since it is August after all and most NHL clubs will be making some notable adjustments to their collective rosters even before training camps begin.

There are trades to be made and free agents to be signed, including Jets restricted free agent Evander Kane (nothing new to report on that subject at this time, though I see no cause for concern).

Our second thought was that given the potential labour issues — a subject for another day, but comments from Commissioner Gary Bettman that the NHL will lock out its players if a new agreement hasn’t been reached by Sept. 15 should not be classified as surprising — it’s of little use to debate the merits of the predictions themselves at this point and time.

However, if you care to weigh in with your opinion, feel free. And don’t forget to tell us why you feel the Jets will be better (or worse).

From where we sit, the Jets appear to have improved their roster with some nice off-season additions but the games aren’t played on paper and most — if not all — the other teams in the Southeast Division have gotten better as well.

We’re choosing to reserve judgement until after training camp at least opens, but won’t be surprised to see the Jets battle for a playoff spot again next spring — once the season gets going of course.

However, it’s far from a lock that they’ll earn an invite to Stanley Cup’s post-season party.

Ultimately, that’s what off-season debates are all about.