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This article was published 23/7/2019 (386 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the end, an arbitrator found some middle ground, something the Winnipeg Jets and Andrew Copp were either unwilling or unable to do.
Copp, 25, was awarded a two-year contract Tuesday that will pay him $2.28 million per season. That's nearly a perfect split of the $2.9 million he asked for, and the $1.5 million the team offered.
The two parties had a nearly seven-hour hearing on Sunday in Toronto, with the arbitrator releasing his decision just after the 48-hour deadline had expired.
Copp was coming off his best year as a pro, scoring a career-high 11 goals and adding 14 assists in 69 regular-season games. He also had five assists in six playoff games. Copp's versatility is a key, as he played an important part of a shut-down checking line, while also shifting from wing to centre and leading another line at times.
He made $1 million last season. When this deal expires, Copp will still be a restricted free agent for one more season.
With this issue now settled, the precarious salary cap situation for the Jets becomes even clearer. Copp's contract means the team has approximately $66.9 million tied up in 21 players for the upcoming season, with two glaring holes left to fill.
That would be RFAs Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, who still need new deals. With the cap ceiling set at $81.5 million, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff only has a maximum of $14.6 million left to get the pair of young guns under contract.
If the Jets were to go with only 22 players on their roster rather than the 23-player maximum, he would have about $15.3 million to play with.
The 21 players currently making $66.9 million are as follows: goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit; forwards Copp, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Jack Roslovic, Kristian Vesalainen, Mason Appleton and a 13th forward such as Mark Letestu (or similar placeholder) making the league-minimum of $700,000; defencemen Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey, Dmitry Kulikov, Neal Pionk, Nathan Beaulieu, Sami Niku, Tucker Poolman and an eighth defencemen such as Anthony Bitetto (or similar placeholder) also making the league-minimum of $700,000.
Given how difficult it may be to get Laine and Connor re-signed and still have some financial breathing room, it raises the possibility of other moves prior to the start of training camp in September.
For example, the Jets could look at trading a player or two for salary-cap relief, and they also have the option of buying a player out of an existing contract later this week.
Under a clause of the collective bargaining agreement, teams that have a player go to arbitration can utilize a so-called second window, which opens on the third day after the arbitration case is settled and remains open for 48 hours. For the Jets, that would give them an opportunity between this coming Friday and Sunday.
Kulikov, in the final year of a deal paying him $4.33 million, would likely be the only player under consideration. There is still a cap penalty for buying him out, so the actual benefit would be about $2.9 million. Add a player taking his spot on the roster earning the league minimum of $700,000, and the net would be $2.2 million.
The Jets have already traded Jacob Trouba this off-season and bid farewell to unrestricted free agents Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot and Par Lindholm; all signed lucrative deals with other NHL clubs.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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