Way Too Early Expansion Draft Possibilities: Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are very much in their window for Stanley Cup contention. But when Seattle gets ready to have their NHL expansion draft, some (more) pieces are going to have to be moved to keep that nucleus under the salary cap. Which Jet might most likely go to the Jet City?

(Here are my guidelines, most raw data from and Half-baked ideas are mine, yes.)

When I say Winnipeg has a lot of players signed for the 2020/2021 season, I am not joking:

Forwards: Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perrault, Adam Lowry

Defensemen/Defencemen: Dustin Byfuglien (who can also play wing, I know), Tucker Poolman

Goalies: Connor Hellebyuck

For Winnipeg, having to sacrifice at least one player to Seattle would come in handy for dealing with the upcoming new contracts for Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Not to disrespect any other pending agents on the roster now, but those two are the most important.

Wheeler, Scheifele, Ehlers, Byfuglien, and Hellebuyck all make at least $6 million by the summer of 2020. Little and Perrault are just on either side of $5 million and Lowry is just shy of $3 million. Poolman's $775,000 seems like a pittance comparatively speaking.

Little has a No Movement Clause, whereas Wheeler, Byfuglien and Perrault have modified No Trade Clauses. Perrault and Little will be over 30 years old by the summer of 2020, Byfuglien and Wheeler already are. Conversely, no one else on the list is older than 25 right now.

All that said, who's most likely to go?

I assume the captain (Wheeler) and his assistants (Byfuglien and Scheifele) are staying put. Ehlers should be near his peak, same with Hellebuyck and Poolman. Also, those lower cap hits for Lowry and Poolman specifically might make Winnipeg more inclined to keep them just to fit under the cap. Little has that NMC that would have to be waived for exposure.

So of the nine current options for Winnipeg, the choice here seems pretty straightforward:

Mathieu Perrault (Center/Centre/Left Wing)

Why Winnipeg Would Make Him Available: my back-of-the-envelope map says they've got somewhere around $48 million dollars (roughly 60% of the current salary cap) committed to nine players (including Perrault) that expansion season. And that's without the inevitable raises to Laine and Connor among others. The money's gotta come from somewhere, and $4.125 million for Perrault would help a lot to make that happen.

Whether his hit is absorbed into one of those big-ticket contracts forthcoming or spears out across some Entry-Level deals, spending that much for almost any bottom-six forward will soon become a luxury Winnipeg probably can't afford.

Why Seattle Would Want Him: The contract hit is the best of both worlds, both big enough to help get to the cap floor and expiring after just the inaugural season which would make it easier to move if so desired. Any team looking for depth would probably come knocking to trade.

Averaging 35-40 points a season the past few years, he would provide at least nominal scoring from the bottom-half of the lineup. Similarly, being either a left wing or center makes him useful.

With as high end a nucleus as Winnipeg has now and an open championship window, he might even have a Stanley Cup on his resume by then.

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