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The Winnipeg Jets Are a "Budget Team", But One That Spends Frivolously

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Yesterday, the Winnipeg Jets made yet another questionable signing by bringing back Keaton Ellerby. Let's take a nice long look at how the Jets have committed to being frugal with Mark Chipman's money. All figures from capgeek.com

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets roster currently features 21 players who played in the NHL last season. They have committed $56,117,024 to these players out of a salary cap of $69M. Accounting for players on two-way deals who could see some NHL time this season, you can add $1,722,500 to that, for a grand total of $56,945,357.

Today I'm going to take a look at the how the Jets are spending this money and examine how much the Jets are paying out to their "high-end" players, "low-end" players, and non-established players (those on two-way deals who got NHL ice time last season). I will additionally look at some players the Jets should have gone after that signed with other teams. FYI, I'm listing cap hits, with actual salaries in parentheses, and I'm only considering this coming season in my analysis.

High-end

The high-end players are ones considered Top-9 forwards (under the modern standard of rolling three scoring lines), Top-4 defencemen (at least 20:00/GP), and goaltenders with at least a 0.910 Save % on the season. These players produce and are extremely difficult to replace.

Tobias Enstrom (D-39) - $5.75M ($5.75M)

Blake Wheeler (R-26) - $5.6M ($5.8M)

Evander Kane (L-9) - $5.25M ($6M)

Dustin Byfuglien (R-33)  - $5.2M ($5.75M)

Zach Bogosian (D-44) - $5,142,857 ($4M)

Bryan Little (C-18) - $4.7M ($4.75M)

Andrew Ladd (L-16) - $4.4M ($4.5M)

Mathieu Perreault (C-85) - $3M ($3M)

Jacob Trouba* (D-8) - $894,167 ($925K)

Mark Scheifele* (C-55) - $863,333 ($832.5)

Michael Hutchinson** (G-34) - $575K ($550K)

These players carry a combined $41,375,357 worth of cap hit. That is approximately 60% of the salary cap. In terms of actual salary, it's $41,857,500.

*Trouba and Scheifele are on entry-level deals, which are technically two-way, but both are full-time roster players.

**Hutchinson is on a two-way deal, but he's the only goaltender on the Jets' roster apart from Ondrej Pavelec and he has some NHL experience. The Jets haven't added another goalie as of yet, this essentially makes him a roster player.

Low-end

Low-end players are ones who don't fit the above criteria. Simply put, they are marginal producers. Theoretically, these players should be easy to replace.

Ondrej Pavelec (G-31) - $3.9M ($3.75M)

Mark Stuart (D-5) - $2.625M ($2.75M)

Grant Clitsome (D-24) - $2,066,667 ($2.3M)

Jim Slater (C-19) - $1.6M ($1.6M)

Chris Thorburn (W-22) - $1.2M ($1.2M)

Paul Postma (D-4) - $712.5K ($775K)

Adam Pardy (D-2) - $700K ($700K)

Keaton Ellerby** (D-7) - $700K ($700K)

Eric Tangradi (L-27) - $675K ($700K)

Anthony Peluso (R-14) - $562.5K ($575K)

The combined cap hit of these players is $14,741,667. That is approximately 21% of the salary cap. In terms of actual salary, it's $15.05 million.

**Ellerby is on a two-way deal. However, he wasn't sent to the minors at any point last season, so I'll assume he's staying with the big club.

For reference, the Kings have $56,541,894 worth of salary or approximately 82% of the cap dedicated to their "high end" players. They are paying out $61,987,500 in actual salary to these players. The "low-end" of their rosters carries a combined cap hit of $10,300,000 or approximately 15% of the salary cap. They are paying these players $10,375,000 in actual salary. The Kings are spending a higher proportion of their money on the high-end of the roster, and a lower proportion on the low-end, while the Jets are paying the inverse.

Two-way

These players are on two-way deals for this coming season and played at least one game in Jets colours last season. The numbers are their NHL hits/salaries.

Carl Klingberg (W-48) - $650K ($650K)

Eric O'Dell (F-58) - $650K ($650K)

Julian Melchiori (D-71) - $625K ($665K)

Patrice Cormier (F-28) - $625K ($625K)

Ben Chiarot (D-63) - $600K ($600K)

John Albert (C-70) - $585K ($585K)

That's $3.735M in total. These players don't count against the cap when when they are in the AHL, but they do when they are called up. If all of these players were on the Jets roster, then they would account for approximately 5% of the salary cap. In terms of actual salary, that's $3,775,000.

Signed Elsewhere

I grabbed one forwards, one defenceman, and one goaltender, that I was hoping would sign with the Jets, but signed with other teams.

Jonas Hiller (G-Calgary) - $4.5M ($4.5M)

Anton Stralman (D-Tampa Bay) - $4.5M ($4.5M)

Lee Stempniak (R-NY Rangers) - $900K ($900K)

That is $9.9M, both in terms of salary cap and actual salary. That is approximately 14% of the salary cap.

I purposefully picked a cheaper forward than the defenceman and goaltender, as the Jets need upgrades higher up in their blueline and goaltending depth charts, while their need at forward is more at the depth slots. And don't worry folks, this will come back shortly.

Trimming the Fat

Stuart, Thorburn, Pardy, and Ellerby are all players who would have been/were unrestricted free agents, before re-signing as free agents or signing extensions before July 1. They all remain with the Jets and a couple of them are overpaid relative to their play. And then there's Pav.

While Pavelec is signed for three more years, the Jets had an opportunity to use a compliance buyout on him, negating his cap hit and a third of his salary, resulting in $1,416,667 per year through the end of the 2019/20 season. For next season alone, not retaining those players means a cap savings of $9.125M (~13%), or $6,766,667 in actual salary.

What If?

This is obviously a little pie in the sky. We don't know whether or not these players would sign with the Jets, nor do we know what dollar figure such a a signing would require, but what if... Here we also take into account the info from the last two sections, and apply it all.

The Jets have $55,417,024 committed towards the salary cap. If we were to take away the $9.125M that they committed to Stuart, Thorburn, Pardy, Ellerby, and Pavelec, they would have a $46,292,024 counting towards the cap and they would actually be paying out $49,440,833.

Add in the $9.9M for to Hiller, Stralman, and Stempniak, and the Jets have $56,192,024 counting towards the cap and an actual salary figure of $59,340,833. They would also have a better roster, and still room to retain RFA Michael Frolik. The names aren't overly important. There are many combinations of players that could offer an upgrade over some of the returning Jets with a marginal increase in spending.

In Conclusion

Jets management has admitted that they are a budget team. They have their own internal salary cap that can limit their spending below the league mandated salary cap. At present they are well below the league's cap. That said, avoiding spending is one small part of budgeting. Prioritizing spending is the key to a successful budget.

To succeed within the limits of their budget the Jets will have to excel at detecting and paying for good value. To date, one has to wonder if this is actually a strength for this team. The top end of the Jets' roster is quality and most of the players are on relatively team friendly deals, but value doesn't go all the way through the roster. Depth has been an obvious issue for the last few years, yet we see most of the depth players re-signed. Not only that, but a few of them are overpaid by a wide margin.

Meanwhile a host of quality players are getting signed for cheap elsewhere. This stings. Is getting players to sign in Winnipeg truly that much of an obstacle? Does Chevy have to overpay? Is he simply identifying the wrong players? Should Chevy be spending more? One thing we can say with certainty - overpaying to keep your own guys can inhibit a team from adding an upgrade and the Jets definitely could afford to upgrade.