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Off Season Anxiety Level Check In – Part Two – “Bad” Contracts

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The summer to-do list for Kevin Cheveldayoff also includes looking at moving some veteran contracts

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In the first installment of my off season anxiety level check in, I wrote about my anxiety surrounding Jacob Trouba. Part two focusses on the Jets “bad” contracts. To be clear, the Jets do not have any truly bad, Milan Lucic type contracts. However, like all teams, they have some contracts that are on the high side in average annual value and/or term based on the players’ current production level. So, let’s check in with how I’m currently doing using the arbitrary three-level anxiety scale, pertaining to our “bad” contracts:

Not At All Worried

Moderately Worried

Panic/Losing Sleep Worried

“Bad” Contracts – Moderately Worried

For the most part, I’m a big proponent of stability for professional sports teams, as they tend to be more successful than organizations in constant upheaval. The New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs are examples of this. However, the most successful teams, those two included, also understand the value of cutting bait on diminishing return veteran contracts at the right time. There is stability, but not so much that it hampers cap flexibility and team growth.

I’m moderately worried that Kevin Cheveldayoff does not realize that now is the time to channel his inner Bill Belichick, and cut bait on some veteran contracts to provide some salary cap flexibility. I’m referring to Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, and Dmitry Kulikov. Between these three players there is approximately $13 million in annual salary.

Trading Little or Perreault is complicated, as Little has a modified no movement clause, and Perreault has a modified no trade clause. Kulikov also has a modified no trade clause, but, is an expiring contract, and can be bought out (which is an option I would take if no trade partner could be found). In terms of demand, I’d suggest that Perreault probably would garner the most interest.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting a panic fire sale for any of those players where we would have to attach a decent prospect in an attempt to clear cap space (i.e. Joel Armia as a sweetener for Steve Mason’s contract). I am suggesting a full court press on trying to move at least two of those three, and that we accept that we may not “win” the trade in terms of a return. We will have to be okay with a couple of future second or third round draft picks, or a B level prospect and a pick.

Why trade any or all of these players if the return may be so low? Cap space. Take a look at the Cap Friendly projections for the next couple of seasons. Most contending teams are headed towards salary cap hell, or at least salary cap heck. Teams really need to get in front of this as much as possible. Your current not so great contract is going to be your future putrid contract, based on how much the salaries are rising for young players hitting their second contracts. Teams that have sustainable success in the future will be defined as much by their cap management as their ability to draft and develop. The sooner the Jets create roster spots for younger (cheaper) players like Kristian Vesalainen, Sami Niku, Tucker Poolman, Mason Appleton, the better.

Moving some veterans would also create a culture reset. I’m not suggesting in any way that Little, Perreault or Kulikov are problems in terms of culture or in the dressing room. However, I do think that moving on from a couple of veterans who are not currently in the top half of your roster, does create a new dynamic. Neither Blake Wheeler nor Dustin Byfuglien is going to be traded despite some comments from our readers for this. But, seeing some of the old guard veterans leave may be a wakeup call for some of the remaining veterans, signalling that the times, they are a changing. Whatever veteran stench that may have permeated the dressing room gets replaced by enthusiastic youngsters smelling like Axe body spray. Everybody wins!

Your thoughts, comments, rebuttals and suggestions as always, are always welcomed and appreciated.