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Money they can afford

Jets expected the big deals, Chipman says

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It seems like a lot of money -- no, it IS a lot of money, but it's well within what the Winnipeg Jets were expecting and can afford.

So said Jets co-owner and governor Mark Chipman Thursday night when asked about the state of the team's budget after it committed to contracts for Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little (seven, six and five years, respectively) for a total of $93.1 million in the future.

Also of note: The Jets are now among the NHL's top three teams in long-term commitments, with 11 players under contract through 2015-16.

There's no need to panic if you're a season-ticket customer.

"Our season-ticket-holder commitments have built-in maximum price increases," Chipman said Thursday, referring to the maximum three per cent increase the team may impose. It is bumping prices two per cent for this fall.

"It's something we'll look at each year as to whether to go to the maximum. This year, we judged we didn't need to do that. As you know, many of those agreements have several years yet to run. So no, I don't expect that the contracts we've committed ourselves to will have a direct impact on season-ticket prices."

The spending spree takes the Jets to a $63.2-million payroll for the fall, according to www.capgeek.com. Can the Jets afford it?

"Yes, we can," Chipman said. "As you probably know, we've got one of the largest number of multi-year agreements in the league. We've had plenty of time to consider this and we've had a plan established for some time and we're merely following it.

"We knew what the cost of doing business in this league was going to be, and as you've seen, it's come down, actually, in terms of the salary range.

"I expect it will be growing again, but we think it will grow at a manageable pace and we'll be able to manage within it."

It's worth noting that the franchise, with its future ticket commitments and its $100 million in revenue in its first season back in Winnipeg, is profitable and has been open that it plans to reinvest the profit in the roster and improvements to the MTS Centre.

Today, the Jets are just under the $64.3-million salary cap for the coming season. When the team entered the league after the 2011 relocation, Chipman was clear that budgets were important and the mid-range was where his franchise belonged.

"I think I said those things when we first got started... We were slightly above that (range) point last year ($58.4 million under a $70.2-million cap, pro-rated) but nobody knew when we started exactly where the cap was going to come in at.

"Now we do, so you're seeing an increase in our payroll. We're closer to the cap this year, but mostly because the cap has come down by a greater amount than our salary has gone up."

The team has decided to commit to several core players over multiple years and try to set the table for some of its own developing prospects for the future. This was an easy sell to ownership by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, Chipman said.

"I think that we've been very consistent in saying that it was always our expectation to build this team around our core and through the draft and through the development of our young players," Chipman said. "It wasn't that difficult to estimate where these deals were going to land and where we were going to be this year.

"There's a process you go through, as we're learning, to wait and see where the market sets itself every summer, and sometimes it's different than you expect, but this summer we expected those players and knew of their value and knew that other teams and their agents would know their value as well.

"In the end, I can tell you where we came in was very, very close to where we expected to be with those players."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 C2

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