Josh Morrissey still has not signed with the Winnipeg Jets and the last we heard was that Morrissey wants a bridge deal and the Winnipeg Jets want to sign him to a long-term contract. While both sides are right to want the type of deals they want, there are mutual benefits for the Jets to sign Morrissey to a bridge deal.
A bridge deal is a one or two year deal that is for less money. A player consciously leaves money on the table in the short-term, they can make more money in the long-term by betting on themselves to earn more money on their next contract once they sign their bridge deal. Now, if you are Jacob Trouba you have been bridged twice and and have maximized his earning potential.
Players earn the most in their UFA years. A bridge contract gives them more years for the team to “buy-out” and while that makes the cap hit higher, it also allows the team to lock up a key player for their best years. This applies to players like John Tavares who signed an extremely team-friendly long-term contract after his entry-level contract.
The Jets and all NHL teams are now limited to being able to offer a term of eight years to all players. If you sign a 23 year old to an eight-year contract, you are buying up their best years. However, you are also signing them until an age that they can still perform quite well at and therefore the next contract could be the regrettable one. In this instance, a bridge contract followed by a six to eight year contract works out well because it allows you to lock up the player for the waning years of their prime and essentially take them to retirement.
Another benefit of a bridge deal for a team is that it allows them to properly assess what a player is. If a player is never going to be more than a second pair defenceman, there is no reason to pay him like a first-pairing guy if you do not have to. By allowing more time to evaluate a player, you are decreasing the chance that you commit a large percentage of the salary cap to a player that is not as good as you think they are. While this might seem like a team not believing in one of their players, it is being prudent with the salary cap.
Finally, a bridge deal allows a team to sign a player to an artificially low AAV for a year or two, giving them more cap space to add players at the deadline. This is key when you are making runs for the Stanley Cup. The Jets have benefitted from having a rental added in the past and having the flexibility to do that is a good thing.
The Jets are in a position where they want to keep Josh Morrissey long-term and Josh Morrissey wants to maximize his earnings. While the salary cap implications of what a long-term deal now means in terms of savings versus in a year or two, it is easy to see why the Jets would prefer to go that route. However, the Jets can benefit from signing Morrissey to a bridge contract now and so can Morrissey. No matter how they settle this matter, the Jets will want to have Morrissey under contract by the time the season starts, if not earlier.