When Kyle Connor re-signed with the Winnipeg Jets in September, fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The Jets locked Connor up for seven years with an annual cap hit of $7.14 million. Jets management, players, coaching staff and fans had to be happy a deal was done before the 2019-20 season opener — but not everyone was in love with the price tag attached to the deal.
Connor was coming off a career season in the final year of his rookie deal, which only meant his stock was rising. However, time and time again we have seen players put up big numbers and sign expensive deals, only to have a big drop in production the next season.
With 16 games remaining this season, it’s fair to say Connor was worth every penny Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff threw his way.
Connor Set for Career Year
Ever since Connor cracked the Jets roster, he’s been putting up points. Connor tallied 57 points (31 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games during the 2017-18 season — his first full season in the big leagues.
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He set new career highs last season, putting up 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists), and is already on track to beat those numbers again this season with 16 games remaining. Connor already has 66 points, including 34 assists — a career best. He needs just three goals over the rest of the Jets games this season to set a new career high in goal category as well.
Connor isn’t just setting new personal bests on the scoresheet. He’s averaging almost two more minutes of ice time a game compared to last season — averaging 21 minutes per game. His time on ice has increased each season, and so has his role. Connor is a staple in the Jets’ top-six forward group and plays the majority of his time on the top line.
During the offseason, all the talk was about how the Toronto Maple Leafs had to re-sign Mitch Marner. They did, but at what cost? The Leafs signed Marner to a six-year deal worth an average of $10.893 million per season. Marner has 63 points this season (15 goals, 48 assists) compared to Connor’s 66.
The Jets and Leafs both lack defensive talent and have a surplus of offensive stars. When adding defense needs to be a priority for both teams, the Connor deal looks a lot better when you start to compare the two.
Connor Showing Top-End Talent
For the third season in a row, Connor will finish the regular season with more than 30 goals, and the way he’s scoring them is just as impressive.
On Feb. 14, he scored an unbelievable between the legs goal against the San Jose Sharks that had his name trending on Twitter instantly. Connor, with his back in front of the Sharks netminder, received a pass from Wheeler, turned his body, fed the puck in between his legs and wristed the puck to the top left side of the goal — beating Aaron Dell.
More recently, Connor intercepted a Washington Capital pass and broke out on a breakaway. He showed patience and beat Braden Holtby — pushing the puck around his right pad.
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Connor isn’t a stranger to multi-point games either; he now has 50 after Thursday’s 3-0 win over the Capitals.
It’s one thing for Connor to be scoring empty netters and one-timers, but he consistently shows he has the skills to be creative on the ice and find new ways to score and beat the league’s best goaltenders.
Connor‘s Health a Positive
Connor dressed in 76 games during the 2017-18 season, all 82 in the 2018-19 season and all 66 games so far this season for the Jets. He brings talent and durability to a Jets roster that always seems to get decimated by injuries.
Take Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault for example. Both players bring a lot to the team when healthy, but health has always been a major question mark for the two players. When the team is missing players on offense, it’s often Connor who steps up for the team.
It’s one thing to pay for talent, but the Jets got a bargain of a deal with Connor when you take into account his consistent 30-goal seasons and his ability to stay on the ice.
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Almost a full season into his new deal, Connor has shown anyone who watches the Jets, that he is the real deal and the Jets made out like bandits signing him for the term and money they did.
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Kellen is a journalism student in the Creative Communications program at Red River College. He’s been breathing in Winnipeg Jets news since the day Teemu Selänne was traded. Kellen has worked for The Manitoban as a sports reporter for two years and is currently the sports editor of The Projector, Red River College’s newspaper. Kellen’s a self-proclaimed floor hockey star, but has never been able to translate his skills to the ice.