The Winnipeg Jets announced they have agreed to a seven-year extension with 21-year-old forward Nikolaj Ehlers. The deal carries an average annual value (AAV) of $6 million and will kick in to start the 2018-19 season.
Ehlers cap hit for the coming season is just $894,167 while his AAV comes in at just under $1.6 million. The extension will see the young forward rewarded and counts as eight percent of the team’s salary based on this season’s cap ceiling.
The Jets’ ninth overall pick in 2014, Ehlers has excelled at the NHL level playing alongside some of the team’s top talent in Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine.
Ehlers’ Numbers Doing the Talking
Over two seasons with the Jets, the native of Aalborg, Denmark, has played 154 regular season games while collecting 40 goals and 102 points. While he missed 10 games in his rookie season (2015-16), he played all 82 games in his sophomore campaign and tallied a career-high in goals (25), assists (39) and points (64) on his way to tying Laine for third in team scoring.
His 0.66 point-per-game average might not seem incredibly impressive, but you can be sure that will change. In 2016-17 he average 0.78 alongside Laine and his linemates don’t seem to be changing for the coming season.
He reached both the 100-point and 100-games played marks in 2016-17 and finished among the league’s top 30 in scoring. But it’s not uncommon for the young Dane to provide for his team on the offensive end. In fact, he’s done it at every level over his career.
Success Second Nature to Ehlers
In junior, where he played with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ehlers collected 205 points in 114 regular season games over just two seasons. He added another 59 points for the Mooseheads in 30 postseason games.
He also represented Denmark at the World Championship in 2015-16 where he notched six points in just eight games for his home country.
Among his fellow 2014 draftees, Ehlers ranks fourth in goals (behind David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl and Dylan Larkin), third in assists (behind Draisaitl and Pastrnak) and third in points (again behind Draisaitl and Pastrnak).
As for his NHL career, the young forward is still seeking his first career playoff game with the Jets. But if his career to this point is any indication, it won’t be long before Ehlers helps the Jets back into the postseason and possibly even to further success.
As for what his teammate – Laine – thinks about the signing, Sara Orlesky reports that Laine has already told Ehlers that he can pay for their room service bills from now on.
Some comparable contracts include Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and Montreal’s Jonathan Drouin – however neither of which have reached the 100-point plateau while playing 14 and 10 more games than Ehlers respectively. That being said, Barkov has a cap hit of $5.9 million and Drouin comes in at just $5.5 million.
As for a Jets’ comparable, Scheifele has an AAV of $6.125 million through to 2024 and has a career 0.63 point-per-game average. That’s 0.03 points per game less than Ehlers. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that Ehlers is expected to have quite the role for the Jets for the next eight years.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.