Jul 29, 2013, 7:14 PM EST
It’s been a busy — and spendy — last seven days for the Winnipeg Jets.
Faced with three key restricted free agents heading to salary arbitration, the club made a big financial commitment by locking up the trio — defenseman Zach Bogosian, forwards Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler — for a combined $93 million.
That dollar figure, said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, is a sign of ownership’s faith in the club.
“Fans in Winnipeg should know that [True North Sports and Entertainment’s] Mark Chipman and David Thomson are committed to building a winner in this city,” Cheveldayoff said in his post-Bogosian contract presser.
“Ownership has shown a commitment to this team.”
That commitment began with re-signing Little last Monday to a five-year, $23.5 million deal.
Little, 25, had seven goals and 25 assists for the Jets in 2013, appearing in all 48 regular-season games and winning a team-high 431 faceoffs. His $4.7 million cap hit was, temporarily, the second highest among forwards on the club, behind only Evander Kane ($5.25 million.)
Temporarily, because Wheeler’s deal was soon to follow.
On Friday, the Jets inked Wheeler to a six-year, $33.6 million deal. The 26-year-old had 19 goals and 41 points in 48 games played in 2013, leading the team in goals while finishing second in points.
Then, today, Winnipeg completed the Bogosian deal — a seven-year, $36 million extension.
Bogosian, 23, had five goals and nine assists in 2013 while averaging 23:07 of ice time in the 33 games he played last season.
The third overall pick in the 2008 draft, Bogosian now joins Wheeler, Kane, Little, Kane and Tobias Enstrom on the list of Jets signed through at least 2017-18.
Cheveldayoff acknowledged the number of similarly-aged players all locked up with similar-type deals.
“If you look at the players we signed here this summer, they are all around the same age,” he explained. “We need to keep growing and pushing.”
While it would’ve been difficult for Winnipeg to either give up or head to salary arbitration with a No. 1 center (Little), its leading goalscorer (Wheeler) and possibly its best defenseman (Bogosian), many are wondering if the Jets have invested too much in a core that, while talented, has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons after moving from Atlanta in 2011.
Cheveldayoff said that nobody can judge these investments until the Jets get back onto the ice next season.
“How close are we [to a Cup]? I don’t know,” he said. “You have to see the product on the ice.
“No awards, no trophies, no wins or losses happen in June, July, August and September. The real evaluation process starts when you drop the puck.”
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