Andrew Copp admits he's taking a calculated gamble with his future. In the process, he's helped the Winnipeg Jets double-down on their chances for success this coming season.

Andrew Copp admits he's taking a calculated gamble with his future. In the process, he's helped the Winnipeg Jets double-down on their chances for success this coming season.

Copp, 27, signed a one-year contract extension on Thursday that will pay him US$3.64 million for 2021-22, then walk him straight into unrestricted free agency next summer. It's a curious move for a restricted free agent coming off the best offensive campaign of his career, which would seem like the perfect time to strike for some long-term security. But that simply wasn't in the cards this summer.

"I basically am betting on myself and have done that the last 10 years so why stop now?" Copp said in a Zoom chat.

The Jets had little financial wiggle room based on a number of off-season moves, including re-signing UFA Paul Stastny (US$3.75 million) and RFA Neal Pionk (US$5.875 million) and obtaining defencemen Nate Schmidt (US$5.95 million) and Brenden Dillon (US$3.9 million) in trades.

"Our first conversation happened in June and they kind of asked what we wanted term-wise and we were thinking in that four or five-year range. And then, with how the expansion draft set out and with the trades that we made, the cap space went away pretty quickly," said Copp.

The Seattle Kraken chose forward Mason Appleton and his US$900,00 salary, rather than defenceman Dylan DeMelo which would have taken his US$3 million off the books. And while that may ultimately boost the on-ice product, it didn't necessarily help the bottom line for a team already tight to the US$81.5 million salary cap.

"So, one year was the agreed upon term because that’s what was basically available," said Copp.

"Yeah, I would have liked to maybe get a few more years, but I got a good contract, I’m happy with it, I’m happy with the improvements that the team made in the off-season. Obviously, a few key losses but a few key additions as well and we think that we’re a team that can go all the way this year."

Getting Copp signed at this number should allow the Jets to squeeze under the cap ceiling — barely — without having to perform any major roster surgery.

"I don’t want to say I wasn’t a team guy. But at the same time they probably gave me more than I would have gotten in arbitration, from accounts that we’ve looked at and probably that they’ve looked at too," he said. "It wasn’t a ton more, but it was something where we were just like ‘OK, let’s just get this done quickly.’ Obviously getting Neal (Pionk) in the fold a couple days ago made it easier and kind off solidified the space that they had."

Teams normally don't like to go into a season with a valued player on the verge of walking for nothing, so it will be interesting to see if there's an under-the-table type agreement already in place to sign Copp to a long-term extension when that window opens as early as Jan. 1. The Jets should clear some money off the books next year when Stastny's contract expires, and only pending RFA Pierre-Luc Dubois, who will make US$5 million this coming season, will need a new deal. It's also possible the flat cap goes up as well.

The Jets had a similar arrangement in place a few years ago with defenceman Josh Morrissey. They didn't have the ability to sign him long-term at the time, opting to go a cheaper two-year deal before pulling the trigger on a massive eight-year extension once they cleared out some cash

"I guess at this point I’m kind of comfortable being uncomfortable," Copp said of the uncertainty.

He had an arbitration hearing set for Aug. 26, which both sides desperately wanted to avoid. Copp went through the process two years ago, admitting it left a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was seeking US$2.9 million, the club countered with just US$1.5 million, and the arbitrator split the difference in awarding a two-year deal at US$2.28 million.

"I would say it probably wasn’t a positive day, but at that point in my career I was ready to fight, I was ready to explain why I felt like I deserved more. And not only got to basically make my case for making more, but a lot of it was making the case that I had done really well in the playing time that I had gotten and I felt like I could contribute more to the team," said Copp.

"Half of going to arb wasn’t about the money, it was about the opportunity to show management how good I think I could be with increased playing time. And it’s worked out. I’ve got a lot more opportunity the last two years and taken steps in my game and continued to get better."

Copp put up career highs in goals (15), assists (24) and points (39) this past season, playing both wing and centre and contributing on the power play and penalty kill. Whether he can duplicate that production remains to be seen. The Jets are stacked up front, with Stastny and Dubois joining Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler in the likely top six in some fashion. Copp may be used primarily on a third line with Adam Lowry and another new winger following the departure of Appleton.

"Just control what I can control. I’ve just kind of felt that way my entire career and have just concentrated on getting better each and every day, trying to prove that I belong as an important part of the team and a core part of the team," said Copp.

"A lot of that comes from success from the team. We get to a second round and feel like you're a big part of that, and now we feel like we're poised to hopefully go even further. You look at Tampa and some of the guys that were there, just winning just solves everything. That's my goal is to come back and get as far as we can and win and just see where the chips fall after that. I'm not too worried about stats or anything like that. I'm just worried about helping the team win, and hopefully just trying to prove my worth and continue to do that and continue to improve."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

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.