Are unresolved player contracts and swirling trade rumours hurting the Jets?

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Personnel and contract issues are forever in play for NHL GMs but the Winnipeg Jets seem to have more than their share of pending business nearly two months into the season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2015 (2494 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Personnel and contract issues are forever in play for NHL GMs but the Winnipeg Jets seem to have more than their share of pending business nearly two months into the season.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) carries the puck up the ice with Colorado Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog (92) chasing behind during second period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg.
Could all of these things — the most significant of which is there is nothing to report in terms of contract extensions for captain Andrew Ladd and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien — be factoring into the team’s decidedly mediocre record of 10-11-2 through the first 23 games?

Veteran right-winger Drew Stafford, who joined the Jets in last February’s trade and re-signed in the summer as an unrestricted free agent, said Thursday the answer is no.

“No, we haven’t brought that up at all,” Stafford said. “Nobody’s talking about that at all.

“It’s going to be out there in the media and we try our best to ignore the noise as much as possible and just focus on proving ourselves as a hockey club. We have more important things to worry about and that’s finding ways to get better and that starts with our defensive game.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has shared virtually nothing on any of the issues that are orbiting. When asked, he simply declines to comment.

Talks have been held with Ladd and his representatives, but more than a quarter of the way through the season, nothing is believed imminent.

Byfuglien’s camp has been reported recently as saying negotiations had not even begun.

Those two veterans, who could become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2016, likely top the priority list.

But the Jets have four other regular, young players who will be restricted free agents next summer. Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry are all coming to the end of their entry-level deals and goalie Michael Hutchinson is also in the last year of his contract.

Given the roles they have, Trouba, the team’s 2012 first-rounder, and Scheifele, the team’s 2011 first pick, will at some point become priorities.

For all of these potential free agents, Cheveldayoff has at least manoeuvred himself into a decent position — he has the most available cap space among the league’s 30 teams, said to be more than US$12 million by nhlnumbers.com.

Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press files Jacob Trouba.
Assuming the cap maximum stays flat near US$71.4 million next season, the puzzle Cheveldayoff is trying to fit together is how to spend the money, if in fact he can spend it all and the Jets are to go close to the cap or maximum.

Some believe signing both Ladd and Byfuglien won’t be possible if you want to keep all the young players in the fold.

That outcome is unknown, but it appears the Jets have tried to resolve the Ladd matter first, then have that deal set some parameters on how to take care of the rest.

But so far, nothing’s done.

Complicating the situation is another matter in orbit — New York Islanders’ stud defenceman Travis Hamonic has asked to be traded to a team closer to his Manitoba home.

Again, Cheveldayoff and the Jets haven’t uttered a public word about it, but the trade rumours have been flying nonetheless.

Speculation has included Trouba’s name, as well as that of Tyler Myers and Byfuglien, since the Islanders surely will require a top defenceman in return in any such deal.

Can all of these unknowns and unresolved orbits be dragging down the team, or at least distracting it?

Players, like Stafford did Thursday, say the hockey is one thing and the business another. But they’re only human, aren’t they?

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, November 26, 2015 10:34 PM CST: Slight change to headline

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