Winnipeg Jets’ 3 Worst Contracts

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 worst contracts on the Winnipeg Jets.

Related: Winnipeg Jets’ 3 Best Contracts

This list is for current players that are under contract only and will not include past players. Let’s get started!

Third Worst: Mathieu Perreault

Perreault’s contract is not terrible, so for it to come in at the third-worst just goes to show how well Kevin Cheveldayoff does with the majority of his negotiations. The 31-year-old currently makes $4.125 million per season through the 2020-21 season. For a guy with his versatility and ability to play anywhere in the lineup, that is not a terrible price to pay.

Perreault had his worst season as a Jet last year when you look at point totals alone. He finished with just 30 points and also had the most penalty minutes (44) out of any season he has played so far with the Jets. His average time on ice also decreased drastically, seeing him only average 12:14 per game compared to 14:28 in 2017-18 and 16:17 in 2016-17. It seems pretty clear his role with the team is sliding and there was talk of a potential trade or buyout this past offseason to make cap space for Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.

The most notable player that compares to Perreault in terms of salary and production is Mikkel Boedker who earns $4 million per season until the end of this season. Over the last three seasons, he has put up 98 points in 226 games, compared to Perreault’s 114 in 217 games. This is only one example, but you can clearly see Perreault’s contract is not all that bad. If the Jets decide to use him like they did three seasons with the absences of Laine and Connor, it will only help both his and the Jets’ situations.

Mathieu Perreault Winnipeg Jets
Mathieu Perreault could see his role increased with the Jets’ absent RFAs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Other recent comparable contracts to Perreault include Micheal Ferland, who recently signed a four-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $3.5 million per season. Joonas Donskoi also recently signed a four-year deal with an AAV of $3.9 million, and Paul Byron signed a four-year deal last season with an AAV of $3.4 million.

Perreault’s four-year deal looked great prior to the start of the 2016-17 season and he has been a very serviceable forward for the team each year he has played for the Jets. However, his role was much greater when he signed this deal and $4.125 million per season for a guy who could potentially play a third- or even fourth-line role this season with only 12 minutes per game seems a bit steep. This, of course, is all dependent on what happens with the Jets’ two prolific RFAs.

Second Worst: Dmitry Kulikov

Kevin Cheveldayoff signed Kulikov to a three-year deal prior to the start of the 2017-18 season in what seemed like a desperation move to add some help on the Jets’ back end. His contract carries an AAV of $4.3 million which is way too much for a third-pairing defenseman who is often injured. I think most Jets fans cringed at this signing back in 2017 and most will still say it was the wrong decision.

Kulikov has not been terrible since joining the Jets and actually – when healthy – filled in quite nicely on the third pairing with former Jet Tyler Myers. But with the Jets needing cap space, he quickly became the talk of a sure-fire buyout this offseason. As we all know, that did not happen and I think it is for one simple reason – the Jets could not afford to lose any more veteran defenseman, high salary cap or not. Cheveldayoff had his hands tied on this one.

Some recent contracts that are similar to Kulikov’s include Will Butcher, who recently signed a three-year contract with an AAV of $3.7 million through the 2021-22 season. Noah Hanafin signed a six-year contract back in 2018 with an AAV of $4.9 million and Morgan Rielly signed a six-year deal back in 2016 with an AAV of $5 million that runs through the 2021-22 season. With these three deals being close to Kulikov’s and the caliber of players being way higher, it is clear that Cheveldayoff reached for this contract.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has one year remaining on his current deal. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

It will be interesting to see how Kulikov does this season with a possible second-pairing role. Hopefully, he can stay healthy – something he has not been lucky with the last two seasons – and play a full 82-game season. This is his chance to prove the doubters wrong and show he is worth the price tag he carries.

The Worst Contract: Bryan Little

Little has my vote for the worst current contract on the Jets and I think most people would agree with me on this one. He signed a six-year contract extension back in 2017 with an AAV of $5.29 million that carries through the 2023-24 season when he will be 36 years old – yikes. He is in a similar situation to Perreault’s where he has seen his role slightly diminish over the past couple of seasons.

Bryan Little Winnipeg Jets
Bryan Little looks poised to start at second line again in 2019-20. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For the majority of the past two seasons, Little has held down the number-two center spot. For the past two seasons, the Jets have also traded their first-round draft picks to acquire a stud second-line center. I have mentioned in past articles that it seems clear the Jets realize he is not the answer for that position to get them over the hump. Sure, he has been effective enough throughout the last two years to help get them to the playoffs. But to get through all the tough playoff matchups, he is better suited to be a role-type player in the bottom-six forward group.

Let’s take a look at some similar players with similar contracts to Little’s. Frans Nielsen and Mikael Backlund are the two closest. Nielsen signed a six-year deal at the age of 32 back in 2016 that carries an AAV of $5.25 million. Backlund signed a six-year deal at the age of 29 back in 2018 with an AAV of $5.35 million. Both players are very similar to Little in terms of point production and their respected roles with their teams.

Bryan Little - Winnipeg Jets
Bryan Little will be 36 years old when his current contract expires. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Some other quick comparable players include Kyle Turris, who signed a six-year deal back in 2016 with an AAV of $6 million. David Backes (five-year deal) and Brock Nelson (six-year deal) also carry AAV’s of $6 million with their respected clubs.

Related: Jets Report Cards 2018-19: Bryan Little

You can argue that Little has somewhat earned that salary over the last two seasons, second-line centers for under $6 million per season are pretty rare these days in the NHL. But with his age creeping up on him and point production not quite what it used to be, it is fair to say this deal will bite the Jets in the you know what. It seems pretty crazy to think what his role will be with the club – if he is still around, of course – when 2023 rolls around and he is still earning $5.29 million per season.

With the exception of Little and Kulikov, I think Cheveldayoff has done a marvelous job handling players’ contracts. Let’s hope that trend can continue with Laine and Connor signing hopefully sometime in the near future.