Projecting Patrik Laine's and Kyle Connor's next contracts
Icon Sportswire / Getty

Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we project Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor's new deals.

The players

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty

Laine and Connor became dynamic offensive weapons for the Winnipeg Jets while playing out their entry-level contracts. Between them, they've given the Jets five 30-goal seasons. Connor was selected 17th overall in the 2015 draft, while Laine was chosen second overall the following year.

Laine:

Season (Age) GP G A P ATOI
2016-17 (18) 73 36 28 64 17:55
2017-18 (19) 82 44 26 70 16:29
2018-19 (20) 82 30 20 50 17:14

Laine has quickly evolved into one of the game's premier goal-scorers, but he's proven to be rather inconsistent. During the 2018-19 season, he scored 18 of his 30 goals during a 12-game stretch in November. He then found twine just four times at even strength over his final 58 contests and looked disengaged in more than a handful of those outings.

He silenced some of his critics with a stellar postseason performance, though the Jets were bounced by the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

Connor:

Season (Age) GP G A P ATOI
2016-17 (20) 20 2 3 5 12:13
2017-18 (21) 76 31 26 57 16:54
2018-19 (22) 82 34 32 66 19:15

Connor has become an effective complement to Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on the Jets' top line. He's smart, quick, blessed with soft hands, and has a nose for the net. His ceiling may not be as high as Laine's, but his floor and shift-to-shift consistency are significantly greater.

The team

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

As punishment for years of successful drafting, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff finds himself in a significant cap crunch this offseason. In addition to Laine and Connor, the Jets have a long list of pending free agents, and only $25.37 million in projected cap space, according to CapFriendly.

Player (Pos.) Status
Andrew Copp (F) RFA
Brandon Tanev (F) UFA
Par Lindholm (F) UFA
Matt Hendricks (F) UFA
Jacob Trouba (D) RFA
Tyler Myers (D) UFA
Ben Chiarot (D) UFA
Nathan Beaulieu (D) RFA
Joe Morrow (D) RFA
Bogdan Kiselevich (D) UFA

Trouba is a safe bet to be traded, but the Jets would probably like to re-sign at least a handful of the players listed above.

Obviously, Laine and Connor are top priorities, but the cap situation could affect how their contracts are constructed. Eight-year contracts, which require higher cap hits, seem to be out of the question.

The comparables

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Here's a select list of wingers to sign extensions out of restricted free agency over the last few years:

Player Cap hit CH% Length Year signed
Jake Guentzel (PIT) $6M 7.55 5 years 2018
William Nylander (TOR) $6.9M* 8.67 6 years 2018
Leon Draisaitl (EDM) $8.5M 11.3 8 years 2017
David Pastrnak (BOS) $6.6M 8.89 6 years 2017
Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) $6M 8.0 7 years 2017
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) $6.75M 9.25 6 years 2016
Filip Forsberg (NSH) $6M 8.22 6 years 2016
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) $7.5M 10.27 8 years 2015

CH% = Cap hit percentage, based on cap ceiling when the contract was signed

* - Nylander's cap hit in 2018-19 was prorated to $10.2 million because of time missed in negotiations

Nylander's deal will likely be viewed as the best comparison for Connor in negotiations. The Swede had 122 points in the two seasons before his new contract, while Connor had 123.

A comparison for Laine is tougher to find. He's never reached the 77 points Draisaitl accumulated in his contract year and doesn't offer the versatility of playing center like the Edmonton Oilers forward does. Tarasenko's deal, although outdated, is interesting. His contract year (37 goals, 73 points) is similar to Laine's 2017-18 season (44 goals, 70 points).

However, Laine's third-year slump creates an interesting debate. Should he be paid as the player he was in 2017-18 or 2018-19? That could be a point of contention during negotiations.

The projections

Darcy Finley / National Hockey League / Getty

For Connor, a six-year deal seems to be the most likely scenario. It provides long-term stability but wouldn't break the bank for the Jets. At this term, a cap hit would likely fall somewhere between $6.5 million and $7.5 million.

Laine's contract is more difficult to predict. He and his agent may prefer a bridge deal so they can return to the negotiating table in two or three years. The cap hit could range from $5 million to $7 million. If Laine's camp wants to get a long-term pact done in the six-to-eight-year range, then his AAV could potentially fall between $7 million and $9 million.

Connor verdict: 6 years, $43 million ($7.167M AAV, 8.63 CH%)
Laine verdict: 7 years, $54.6 million ($7.8M AAV, 9.4 CH%)

Others in this series:

Comments
Projecting Patrik Laine's and Kyle Connor's next contracts
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox