By Scott Billeck
If Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t already have enough on his plate, he certainly does now.
Five Winnipeg Jets players filed for salary arbitration on Wednesday, the first day possible for players to do so. The players, all restricted free agents, include Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Paul Postma and Eric Tangradi. Hearings will be held from July 22 to August 6 in Toronto. The maximum length of a contract, should any one of these players reach an arbitrator’s ruling, is two years.
What this means to Jets fans at this point is very little, and in no way does this mean that any one of these players wants out of Winnipeg. What it does do is put pressure on Cheveldayoff. The big three, Bogosian, Wheeler and Little are all looking for long term deals and it is known that Cheveldayoff is looking to hand out those deals, at least to those three players. Filing for arbitration gets the ball rolling — a bargaining chip if you will. Most of the time a player will sign with his club before the arbitration period commences.
Wheeler is coming off a solid year for the Jets. Playing in all 48 games, Wheeler scored 19 times, added 22 assists and was the Jets second leading scorer behind captain Andrew Ladd. Zach Bogosian spent time on the shelf to start the year due to off-season wrist surgery, but in 33 games played Bogosian scored five times and added nine helpers. Bryan Little centered the first line between Ladd and Wheeler and contributed seven goals and 25 assists while playing in all 48 games. Defenseman Paul Postma played 34 games for the big club, scoring four goals and adding five assists. Eric Tangradi, who was aquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a 2013 seventh round draft pick, played in 36 games, scoring once and adding three assists.
There were 16 other NHL players who filed for arbitration, as well, on Wednesday. They include:
Brendan Smith (Detroit), Sam Gagner (Edmonton), Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Jordan Nolan (Los Angeles), Ryan White (Montreal), Nick Spaling (Nashville), Josh Bailey (New York Islanders), Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers), Eric Condra (Ottawa), Robert Bortuzzo (Pittsburgh); Chris Stewart (St. Louis), Mark Fraser, Carl Gunnarsson (Toronto) and Dale Weise (Vancouver).