In 2015, the Winnipeg Jets selected Kyle Connor with the 17th overall pick, from Youngstown of the USHL. Connor did not play pro hockey right away. He played NCAA hockey for the University of Michigan for a year. The following year, the Jets took Patrik Laine with the second pick in the draft out of Finland.
The NHL debut for Connor and Laine came in the 2016-17 season. Both of the promising, young players panned out exactly as Winnipeg could have hoped. Both are now NHL superstars with incredible scoring production. But the Jets may be grounded for now, as the engines of the offence remain unsigned, with the start of the season less than two weeks away.
Why the Winnipeg Jets Unsigned RFAs Are a Huge Problem
This past season, Laine and Connor combined for 116 points over the 82 game slate. Of the 270 goals scored by a Jets player last season, these two forwards combined for 64 of them. Take those 64 goals away and they are the 29th team in the NHL in terms of goals scored instead of seventh. That does not include goals that were scored because one of them assisting a scoring player.
When you consider that this team was already the 15th team in terms of goals allowed (243), the blow of losing Connor and Laine could bounce this team from playoff contention. It becomes even more challenging when you consider that they are in a division with established teams like the Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues, and teams that may be on the rise in the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
What The Winnipeg Jets Unsigned RFAs Should Be Paid
Looking at the contract situation for Winnipeg, they would likely have to pay both Laine and Connor like Vancouver paid Brock Boeser. While Boeser only played in 69 games last season, he had similar scoring totals with 56 points. Boeser was also just handed a contract worth $5.875 million per year. It is reasonable to expect both Laine and Connor to be looking for no less than that.
It is somewhat curious that a deal has not happened yet. The Jets currently have just over $15 million in cap space, plenty to sign both wing forwards. The fact that both Mitch Marner and Brock Boeser have signed with their respective teams is a good sign for Jets fans. Now that the first domino has fallen for the NHL’s RFA forwards, other deals should come along more quickly.
Where the Jets Stand Without Them
If we look at the Jets roster as it stands, they do not look like a playoff team without their two star forwards. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are very capable top-line forwards. Nikolaj Ehlers could also potentially see top-line playing time without Connor and Laine. But the overall scoring ability significantly drops off after those three. The defense could be in question as well if Dustin Byfuglien decides to retire. This would leave Josh Morrissey to hold down the fort in the back end.
If both forwards remain unsigned and they lose their best piece on defence, the Jets could find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in come April.
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