Earlier this summer, Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff suggested the signing of restricted free agent defenceman Logan Stanley would be a mere formality. And it certainly turned out that way as Stanley and the hockey team put pen to paper Wednesday on a two-year deal with an average annual value of US$900,000.
Stanley was not arbitration-eligible so he really didn’t have much recourse other than to accept the Jets’ qualifying offer. And the Jets need to maximize every dollar after using up a considerable amount of cap space to acquire defencemen Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt just ahead of last week’s free agency deadline.
Forward Andrew Copp and defenceman Neal Pionk have both elected salary arbitration and will have hearings scheduled for between Aug. 11 and 26 if deals cannot be negotiated to avoid that often very contentious process.
According to CapFriendly, Winnipeg has just over $6 million in cap space remaining, with just 18 players signed. The Jets do have the option of using Bryan Little’s almost $5.3 million because the veteran centre is expected to remain on Long Term Injured Reserve again this season. So that would bump the total available cap space to about 11.3 million to sign Copp and Pionk while filling out the three remaining roster spots for two forwards and a goalie.
Stanley had a breakthrough campaign in 2020-21 as he parlayed a strong performance during training camp into a first opportunity to play at the NHL level. And that door opened early when Dylan DeMelo missed the team’s first four games following the birth of a baby boy, and Tucker Poolman tested positive for COVID-19 following the season-opening 4-3 overtime win versus Calgary.
The 23-year-old Waterloo, Ont., native played in 37 games and scored his first-ever NHL goal in a 4-2 loss at Calgary on March 27. Stanley added three assists for four points in the regular season and also played in all eight playoff games and scored Winnipeg’s final two goals in a series ending 3-2 OT loss at Montreal on June 7.
The Jets’ second of two first-round picks in the 2016 draft impressed management and the coaching staff enough to warrant being protected ahead of DeMelo in last month’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Cheveldayoff said that decision was made after several teams had inquired about Stanley’s availability prior to the draft on July 22. The Jets brass felt there was a real possibility those same teams might also make a pitch to Seattle if the Kraken chose the former Memorial Cup winner with Windsor in 2017.
The final result saw right-winger Mason Appleton selected by the NHL’s 32nd and newest member.
The signing of Stanley leaves the Jets with eight defencemen under contract for the coming season. That does not include Pionk, who has filed for salary arbitration, but does include the seldom-used Sami Niku as well as veteran Nathan Beaulieu and rookie Ville Heinola.
Niku played in just six games this past season and only dressed for 17 games in 2019-20. Beaulieu is recovering from surgery on April 1 to repair a torn labrum and his status for the start of the coming season is undetermined. Heinola will be entering the first official year of his entry-level contract and can go back and forth from the Jets to the AHL Manitoba Moose.
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