3 Players the Jets Can Extend Before 2022 Free Agency

With the second half of the 2021-22 season underway, contract talks and extensions have likely become a key topic within NHL clubs. The Winnipeg Jets have 11 contracts expiring at the end of the season, and here’s a breakdown of why these three players, specifically, deserve to receive an extension this summer.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Pierre-Luc Dubois, otherwise known as “PLD,” has become a fan favourite in Winnipeg. Acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Patrik Laine – the Jets’ second overall pick in 2016 – and Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dubois has quickly become one of the team’s stars. Last season, he recorded 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 41 games. This season, he has taken on a larger role with 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 33 games.

Dubois is a terrific two-way power forward who brings versatility and elite puck handling to the lineup. In his draft year, he was often compared to LA Kings superstar and captain, Anze Kopitar, who led the Kings to two Stanley Cup Championships.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Brenden Dillon celebrate a goal for the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dubois has an average annual value (AAV) of $5,000,000 on his current deal, and he will surely be looking for a raise during negotiations. While he deserves the raise, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to balance a new deal with other contracts, like Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor’s, which could make negotiations a bit tough. As the Jets’ centre of the future – behind Scheifele – the Jets should offer Dubois between $7 million – $8.5 million AAV on a long-term deal.

One way for the Jets to make sure this happens is to buy out Blake Wheeler’s contract. That should free up enough cap space for Dubois and other players who need to be signed long-term. The Jets currently have $8.4 million in available cap space.

Andrew Copp

The Ann Arbor, Michigan product has been a staple on the Jets’ second and third lines for the last eight seasons. Andrew Copp is like a Swiss army knife. He can be used on any line, in almost any situation and will excel. In August 2021, Copp re-signed with the Jets on a one-year contract with an AAV of $3,640,000. With his contract set to expire again this offseason, negotiations are likely already underway.

Last season, Copp set career-highs in goals, assists, and points. In 55 games, he recorded 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) and was a key contributor. He has seen his ice time increase this season and received time on the power play. This season, he has 22 points (eight goals 14 assists) in 33 games and is well on his way to smashing his career-highs.

If the Jets are unable to settle on a long-term deal, Copp will likely walk in free agency. However, that would be a big loss, as the team needs a player like him around. They should offer him a four-year deal with an AAV of $4 million. That should satisfy both parties enough to keep him in Winnipeg.

Evgeny Svechnikov

Evgeny Svechnikov might be a controversial choice here, but his potential has hardly been tapped into. He was drafted 19th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Draft but couldn’t prove he was a first-round talent. He spent five seasons with the Red Wings and put up 12 points in 41 total games. While most of his time was spent in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he excelled, he and Detroit parted ways at the end of last season.

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The Jets took a chance on Svechnikov, who signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 AAV with the club on Oct. 13. With several forwards likely on their way out, taking another chance on Svechnikov could pay off for the Jets in the long run. In 2016-17, he registered 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) in 74 games with the Griffins. Unfortunately, that skill has yet to translate to the NHL level, but the Jets are working on his development.

This season, he has nine points (three goals, six assists) in 30 games with the Jets. That might not be too impressive, but it’s a solid start. With the Red Wings, he had eight points in 21 games last season, and all signs seem to be pointing in the right direction.

If the Jets can lock him up on a short-term deal worth less than $2.5 million, it would be a steal. Svechnikov has the ability to play a key role for the team, and if his stats continue to trend upwards, he will get more ice time to help with his development. However, he may decide he’s worth more than what the Jets offer; he was a surprise addition last off-season but has started to blossom into a legit NHL player and could drive a hard bargain.

Options are There

Jets management might make a big offseason splash that clears the path for the team’s future. Whether that’s a trade that involves a high-salary player or buying out Wheeler, they have enough options to ensure they bring back their best players for 2022-23. Do you agree or do you think Cheveldayoff should shake up the core? Let me know in the comments.