It’s the middle of summer and nothing is going on in the hockey world at the moment. The draft is over, most free agents have been signed, and there isn’t much left to figure out before next season. A topic of discussion recently has been the contracts given out in free agency, especially with Myers and Tanev leaving for ‘greener’ pastures. I figured this would be a great time to look at the Jets roster and dissect each contract.
Sometimes it can be difficult to define a ‘valuable’ contract. In this case, there will be consideration for three major factors: average annual value (AAV), term left on the contract, and individual player performance/importance. It’s expected that the top line players will command more money on their contracts, so we will look at each contract through the usage/role of the player when examining both the dollars and term.
I will be giving out points for each contract, based entirely on an arbitrary system of my own opinion. I will rank each contract out of 5 (1 meaning terrible, 5 meaning awesome) for the AAV, term left, and the overall value that the contract gives the Jets.
In order to go through each player, we will split this series up into multiple posts over the next couple weeks, so don’t worry, we will make our way through all the players eventually.
Now that we all know the rules, let’s start with the worst contracts in the organization.
(All graphics from our friends at puckpedia.com)
It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Kulikov’s name at the top of the worst contracts list. Whenever a player becomes a buyout candidate, obviously something hasn’t quite gone according to plan. The Jets turned heads when they initially signed Kulikov to his three year deal back in 2017. Although the three year term wasn’t bad, the dollar value attached was terrible from the start. The dream was that Kulikov would be free from all former injuries and could find a home on the second pairing behind Morrissey.
The plan never came to fruition as Kulikov has been injured both of the last two seasons and never quite reached the next level to his game. He’s slowly faded as the two years went by and he ended the season with many fans wanting his contract off the books early.
Contracts for defenseman can often be tough to judge, but Kulikov clearly doesn’t excel on either the defensive or the offensive side of the puck. He only scored 17 points in two seasons combined and he didn’t look strong on the defensive end alongside Tyler Myers.
All of this doesn’t mean Kulikov is a terrible player. If he was signed to a $1-2 million deal, he could be a serviceable bottom pairing defender. The real issue becomes that Winnipeg chose to pay him over $4 million instead.
AAV – 1
Term – 2
Overall Value – 1
Next on our list is Bryan Little, the second line centre that has been bumped from his spot at the last two trade deadlines. Getting your spot in the lineup taken away is never a good thing, especially when it pushes you from the top six into the bottom six. The real issue isn’t that Little had to switch linemates at the end of the year, it’s that he isn’t seen as a second line centre anymore.
Ever since Scheifele took the reins on the top line, people have been wondering when the next young centre would move up the ranks and push Little further down the lineup. While this hasn’t happened yet, there’s a strong possibility that Lowry, Copp, Roslovic, or even Gustafsson will surpass Little before his contract is up.
As far as the dollar value is concerned, the price is quite high, but not outrageous. He’s getting paid like a middle of the pack second line centre which is in line with the last few seasons he’s produced. Unfortunately, the contract starts to take a dark turn when viewing the term of the deal. The current contract for Little includes a whopping five more seasons which will run until Little is 36 years old. In the current state of the NHL with players getting younger and faster, it’s going to be awfully tough for Little to stay productive into his mid thirties.
Once again, just because there’s a bad contract, doesn’t mean the player is useless. Little is still an important part of the team and will likely stay in his second line spot for another season. If he can continue his consistency of forty to fifty points per season, he might be able to provide some more value as his contract ages. If not, the Jets are looking at a really tough situation in three or four years.
AAV – 2
Term left – 1
Overall Value – 1