The Winnipeg Jets are going to be busy this off-season.
Per CapFriendly.com, the Winnipeg Jets will have eight restricted free agents (that are on their main roster). Those restricted free agents (RFA) include Andrew Copp, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux, Jacob Trouba, Joseph Morrow and Laurent Brossoit.
With so many restricted free agents to sign, you can expect Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to be as busy as a bee. But, while many fans across the NHL believe that Laine’s contract will keep Cheveldayoff very occupied, it’s looking like Connor’s contract will be a higher priority.
This season, Connor has 19 goals, 19 assists, 13.3 shooting percentage (S%), 11 power-play points, 19:08 average time on ice (ATOI), a 48.4 corsi-for percentage (CF%), a 48.6 fenwick-for percentage (FF%), 37 take-aways and 23 give-aways in 48 games played.
In terms of his playing style, Connor has a tremendous amount of speed. In fact, when Connor was drafted in 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Rogers Sportsnet crew mentioned how Connor’s speed reminded them of Michael Grabner. Grabner, who plays for the Arizona Coyotes is well-known for his speed.
In the GIF below, you can see Connor showing off his speed against the Vegas Golden Knights. A few days ago, the Jets were in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. Even though the Jets were down a man, that didn’t stop Connor from being dominant offensively. In the GIF, you’ll see Connor’s teammate, Bryan Little with a steal in the defensive zone. Then Little sees Connor to his left and delivers a quick pass to him. Connor then skates from zone-to-zone with the puck, he manages to lap Nate Schmidt and then defeats Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 lead.
GOAL. Vegas' power play remains bad. Kyle Connor scores one shorthanded. pic.twitter.com/YaixrKUhDu
— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 16, 2019
In addition, Connor has been one of the best play-makers on the Jets roster. In terms of assists, he’s fifth on Jets with assists. While Connor has been dominant on the power-play in terms of goal scoring, it’s worth noting that the bulk of his assists are when the Jets are playing 5v5 hockey.
Connor’s Defensive Play
Plus, his defensive and possession play isn’t half bad either. While his CF% and FF% are both below 50%, that’s expected when you are a forward on a high-octane offense. In fact, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine both have CF% and FF% under 50% and both are elite forwards as well. So, I wouldn’t read too much into Connor’s CF% and FF%.
Aside from his CF% and FF%, he’s exceptional at taking away the puck from the opposition. At the moment, he’s second on the team in take-aways. When it comes to a forward who is skilled in both zones, you need to pay these players a decent chunk of change.
On the flip side, Laine is more of a one dimensional hockey player. Laine is a sniper. He’s got a strong shot and looks like a much younger Alex Ovechkin.
In 48 games played this season, Laine has tallied 25 goals, 9 assists, 15.1 S%, 13 power-play points, 17:23 ATOI, 47.8 CF%, 47.8 FF% and 15 take-aways. Unfortunately, Laine is on pace for his worst season in the NHL. Unless Laine has a hot streak in which he tallies assist after assist, he’s more than likely to have less than 20 assists. If that does happen, that’ll be a career low in assists for the Tampere, Finland native.
Unfortunately for Jets fans, Laine has been less productive as a play-maker over the last three seasons. In his 2016-2017 campaign, he had 28 assists in 73 games played. The following season, Laine had 26 assists in 82 games played. Laine’s play-making continues to get worse and worse.
If you had to compare Connor and Laine, you’d most likely write a bigger check to Connor. Connor is more consistent in goal-scoring and assists than Laine. He’s not a one-dimensional player and definitely has more to offer than Laine. While that could change in the future, it would be a big risk to overpay Laine and not have enough money to keep Connor. Laine is still really young and hasn’t hit his performance ceiling yet, but after the past couple of seasons, I’m not sure that the argument can be made that he’s worth more to the Jets than Connor.
stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com
featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler