The Winnipeg Jets – like all teams in the NHL – have had their fair share of good and bad contracts over the years. In this article, we are going to take a deeper look at the three best contracts on the Winnipeg Jets. This list is for current players that are under contract only and will not include past players. Let’s get started with the three best and be sure to stay tuned for the three worst contracts in a later article.
No. 3: Nikolaj Ehlers
Back in Oct. 2017, Ehlers signed a seven-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $6 million per season. He has put up 199 points in 298 career NHL games so far and has – for the most part – played within the Jets’ top-six forward group over that span.
After two strong seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18 – Which saw him put up a total of 124 points in 164 games – Ehlers struggled for the first time in the 2018-19 season. He finished with just 37 points in 62 games and failed to register a point in the 2019 playoffs against the St. Louis Blues. As I have mentioned in past articles, I believe this was just one of those seasons for the 23-year-old. We should see the better version of him again in 2019-20, especially with the chance to play on the first-line due to both Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor still being unsigned.
Let’s take a look at some players with similar long-term contracts to the one Ehlers signed.
Filip Forsberg currently earns $6 million per season until the 2021-22 season. From 2015-16 (the season Ehlers started in the NHL) until now, Forsberg has played in 295 NHL games, registering a total of 236 points. Brandon Saad also currently earns $6 million per season until the end of the 2020-21 season. From the 2015-16 season until now, he has put up 188 points in 322 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Other comparable players are Jonathan Huberdeau, who earns $5.9 million per season until the 2022-23 season. Jake Guentzel is currently earning $6 million per season until the 2023-24 season, and Jonathan Drouin, who earns $5.5 million per season until 2022-23.
Ehlers is a capable top-six forward on any NHL team. His speed and zone entry ability is nearly unmatched and I think he is poised to have a breakout year for goals and points. With the way a lot of NHL contracts are starting to look, this Ehlers contract is already a steal of a deal and could very well be even more lopsided if he continues to progress and reach new limits. Even after adding his two stronger seasons with last season, I still do not think we have seen the best of the young Dane.
No. 2: Josh Morrissey
Morrissey recently signed a long-term contract with the Jets on September 12. His new deal will carry an AAV of $6.25 million through the 2027-28 season. He has played 223 career NHL games so far and registered a total of 77 points. With Dustin Byfuglien currently taking a leave of absence, Morrissey now becomes the team’s go-to defenseman and will be leaned on heavily over the course of the 2019-20 season.
Morrissey has emerged as a top-pairing defenseman and is only getting better with experience. He is slowly developing the offensive side of his game that was such a huge part of his junior hockey playing days. His defensive abilities and fearless shot-blocking have always been there since joining the Jets but for some reason, it was a slow transition with the offensive side of things. 2019-20 could be the season we see him take that next step, especially with an open spot on the top power-play unit that may have his name on it.
Here are some players with similar long-term contracts to the one Morrissey recently signed.
Tyler Myers recently signed with the Vancouver Canucks, his AAV is $6 million until the 2023-24 season. From the 2016-17 season (Morrissey’s first full-time season in the NHL) until now, Myers has played 173 games and registered a total of 72 points. Ryan Ellis signed a long-term deal back in 2018 with an AAV of $6.25 million. Over the last three seasons, he has tallied 111 points in 197 games played. While Ellis has a higher point total, Morrissey may be the better all-around player at this point in their respective careers.
Some other comparable salaries to Morrissey are Esa Lindell, who earns $5.8 million per season until 2024-25. Nate Schmidt is currently earning $5.95 million per season until 2024-25 and Cam Fowler is currently earning $6.5 million per season until 2025-26.
Morrissey clearly wanted to be a Jet for the duration of his career after signing his new eight-year deal. Still just 24 years old and already becoming an elite first-pairing defenseman, his new contract is going to look like gold in another three to four years when he reaches his prime. It is already a steal and, like Ehlers, I do not believe we have seen Morrissey’s full potential yet.
The Best Contract: Mark Scheifele
Scheifele gets my vote for the best contract currently on the Jets. His eight-year deal carries an AAV of just $6.125 million and runs through the 2023-24 season (He will be 31 years old at the end of his current contract). It seems like just yesterday the Jets drafted him seventh overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and already he has played a total of 448 games for them, registering a total of 371 points.
Scheifele has emerged as the team’s No. 1 center and has also become one of the top centers in the entire NHL. He came in at No. 9 on the NHL’s top 20 centers list back in August and could move even further up the list with another strong season in 2019-20. He ranks 19th in the NHL for points over the last three seasons and might have ranked in the top 10 had he not missed 22 games in the 2017-18 season.
Let’s take a closer look at some comparable long-term contracts to Scheifele’s.
The two most notable might be Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksander Barkov. MacKinnon currently has arguably the best contract in the entire NHL, earning just $6.3 million per season until 2022-23. That is a huge bargain for a guy who has put up 196 points in his last 156 games and has MVP written all over him. Barkov earns just $5.9 million per season until 2021-22 and has very similar numbers to Scheifele over the last six seasons. Barkov has put up 345 points in 413 games over that span, where Scheifele has put up 370 points in 437 games over those six seasons.
Some other comparable long-term contracts to Scheifele include Sean Monahan who has an AAV of $6.3 million through the 2022-23 season. William Karlsson just signed an eight-year extension and now has an AAV of $5.9 million through the 2026-27 season. Nick Schmaltz also recently signed a big extension, inking a seven-year contract with an AAV of $5.8 million until the end of the 2025-26 season.
Scheifele is close to MacKinnon territory for the crazy bargain of his contract. In today’s NHL, getting a point-per-game player for $6 million per season is an absolute steal. I think Scheifele will be able to produce between 80-90 points for the remainder of his contract and that will look even better down the road than it already does. With players at a similar pace signing for close to double these days, never mind another three or four years down the road. Here is to Kevin Cheveldayoff on another job well done.
This list proves that every NHL team can earn team-friendly contracts. It is no secret that Winnipeg is not any players’ first choice to play when they enter the league, but with a little warming up and a general manager who has the patience and ability to build a contender, anything becomes possible.