As training camp is set to open in Winnipeg without RFA Kyle Connor, there is growing interest from other NHL teams in the two-time 30-goal scorer.
Starting in June a number of teams checked in with Connor about the possibility of an offer sheet. Sportsnet has learned contact with those teams has been ongoing and at least one new team checked in with interest after the August long weekend.
For those counting, that’s at least three teams kicking the tires on an offer sheet for Connor.
Back in June, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was asked about the potential of an offer sheet being signed by Connor and/or Patrik Laine.
“I think you look at all the situations and determine it, but certainly it would be our intention to match, and you’ve got the summer to figure it out,” the GM told NHL.com.
In his latest “31 Thoughts” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote Connor’s camp is looking for security in these contract negotiations. With two 30-goal seasons under his belt, the belief is Connor’s consistency has warranted a long-term contract.
As to what the cap hit may be on Connor’s next contract, the recent signing of Arizona’s Clayton Keller to an eight-year deal with a $7.15 million cap hit could reasonably be considered a starting point. In the past two seasons, Connor has scored 11 more points and 28 more goals than Keller.
As we explored earlier this summer, the Winnipeg Jets remain in a tight spot around the cap. While they currently have $15.4 million in space, per CapFriendly, RFA Patrik Laine is also in need of a new deal, so that room will evaporate quickly.
“You’re at a stage where there continues to be work to be done,” Cheveldayoff said about the status of talks with Laine and Connor. “We’ll continue to work at them and hopefully everything works out sooner rather than later.”
The longer those negotiations wear on, the more pressure you would expect to fall on the team. Winnipeg is experiencing considerable turnover after the loss of four veteran players to free agency and on top of that, Laine and Connor together accounted for 24 per cent of Winnipeg’s goals in 2018-19.
Further, if negotiations for either player carry into the regular season the first year of a new deal would bring a higher cap hit. The best recent example of this is William Nylander’s contract with the Maple Leafs that was signed on Dec. 1, 2018. Joining the team late, Nylander’s cap hit for the remainder of the season was $10.27 million, but will come in at $6.96 million for the next five.
Dec. 1 remains the hard deadline, after which a Group 2 RFA is not eligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
If an offer sheet does arrive, the Jets would have seven days to match and be able to go 10 per cent above the salary cap for a couple of weeks until the 2019-20 season starts.