By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder and Jonathan Kozub
The independent arbitrator associated with the Andrew Copp salary arbitration hearing has come to a decision.
Late Tuesday afternoon it was announced that the arbitrator had ruled that a two-year, one-way deal for the Jets' fourth-year forward would be to the tune of $2.28 million annually. This number follows the pattern of recent arbitration rulings, falling very much dead centre between the hopes of both parties involved, with a slight advantage going to the player in question.
Earlier it was announced that Copp had filed for $2.9 million annually on a two-year term, while Winnipeg asked for $1.5 million. The hearing reportedly lasted much longer than normal, rising many questions regarding the Jets' view on Copp's worth, and the true value of the 25-year-old centreman. Copp would remain a restricted free agent following his new two-year deal, set to expire following the 2020-21 season.
Copp - a 6-foot-1, 210-pound forward out of Ann Arbor, MI. - spent the past four years playing within the Jets' bottom-six forward group, racking up 36 goals, 84 points and 44 penalty minutes in 293 regular season games, while producing at a much higher rate offensively in the postseason, collecting a goal and eight points in just 22 playoff games over the past two years.
With uncertainty surrounding the Jets' opening day lineup, there is potential for Copp to grab the bull by its horns and run away with the second line centreman position. Pending contract disputes and injury, Winnipeg will most likely run with a variation of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nik Ehlers, Bryan Little and Kyle Connor in the top-six. However, there is opportunity for Copp to move in on the aging Little for potential second-line duties.
With the contracts of fellow restricted free agent forwards Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine still to be awarded, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Jets, the two young superstars and their respective agents have much work to do in order to fit the total team salary under the slow-rising salary cap of $81.5 million by the beginning of the coming season.
The NHL's second team buyout window opens Friday for Winnipeg, closing Sunday. If the team were to buy out the remainder of the contract of defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, the Jets could save $2.89 million this coming season. Another potential trade candidate at Cheveldayoff's disposal would include forward Matthieu Perreault, who has two years at $4.125 million left on his current deal. RFA goaltender Eric Comrie also has yet to re-sign for the coming season.