A lot has been made by me over the salary cap crunch the Winnipeg Jets are looking at in the coming seasons, but there is one player who is not talked about who could throw a wrench in the Jets already tight situation: Kyle Connor is too good. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing, but him being this good is going to mean another big contract for the Jets.
Since being called up at the start of last season, Connor has played in 99 games and recorded 66 points including 36 goals. He has looked stellar on a line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and the Jets are going to have to pay for his awesomeness. However, they could have gotten a whole season more of Connor on his entry-level contract with one small (okay, big) move.
There is a clause in the NHL’s CBA that allows for a team signing a player with a late birthday to get a free year of AHL service. The fact that teenagers as of September 15 count as a teenager for the entire NHL season means that they have to play at least ten NHL games for the season to count on their NHL contract. If they play under that limit (0-9 games), the NHL team gets an extra season on the ELC because they have not triggered the ten game mark yet.
This clause gets extra confusing because when it comes to players with late birthdays, the contract has to be signed before September 15 of the year the player is drafted meaning no player who is going to the NCAA can fall under this rule unless their draft team convinces them to go play junior or in the AHL instead.
An example of a player who has benefited from this rule recently is the Montreal Canadiens Nikita Scherbak. Scherbak has a late December birthday and was signed the same summer he was drafted. That means that his first AHL season did not burn up his NHL ELC. He did burn a season of waiver eligibility and now cannot be sent down to the AHL while on a ELC so this rule is not perfect, but Connor would be on his first season of waiver eligibility and he is definitely not going to the AHL so...the Jets are good there.
There is the real possibility that the Jets could not have convinced Connor to sign with them and either go to junior or the AHL. If they did not try though, they were not trying to take advantage of a loophole that allows teams to employ a player for up to two extra years without burning up a year of their contract. If the Jets had been able to take advantage of this rule, Connor would not be up for a new contract this summer and instead would still be on his ELC for another season. Wouldn’t that have been sweet.