The Winnipeg Jets extended qualifying offers to 12 restricted free agents Monday, securing their playing rights and buying more time for ongoing contract negotiations.
NHL teams had until 4 p.m. Monday to make a decision on players with RFA status. Players who did not receive qualifying offers became unrestricted free agents after the deadline.
And that’s where goalie Jamie Phillips, defencemen Joe Morrow and Jan Kostalek and forward Jimmy Lodge find themselves.
Morrow, 25, joined the Jets as a trade-deadline acquisition and appeared in 18 regular-season games and six playoff games. He had a goal and four assists in the regular season, and one huge goal in the playoffs which proved to be the winner in the first series opener against Minnesota. He made $650,000 on a one-way contract.
Phillips, 25, was a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft and has spent most of his career so far in the East Coast Hockey League. He appeared in 16 games with the Moose this year, posting a 6-7-0 record with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
Kostalek, 23, was a fourth-round selection in 2013 and had six goals and one assist with the Moose this season, and also played eight games in the ECHL.
Lodge 23, was a third-round pick in 2013 and has struggled to develop in his three years of pro hockey. He spent the majority of this past season in the ECHL after putting up just one assist in six games with the Moose. Lodge had 11 goals and 14 assists in 114 career AHL games.
The dozen players who did receive offers Monday include goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie; forwards Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev, Joel Armia, Marko Dano, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo; and defencemen Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba and Tucker Poolman.
Dano spent most of this past season as a healthy scratch with the Jets, who were afraid to potentially lose him on waivers by sending him down to the Moose. Petan and Comrie had brief stints with the Jets, while Phillips, De Leo and Kostalek spent the entire year in the minors.
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, all qualifying offers are for one year and fall into three categories: 110 per cent of the previous base salary if it was less than or equal to $660,000; 105 per cent of the base salary if it was greater than $660,000 and less than $1 million; or 100 per cent of the base salary if it was equal to or greater than $1 million.
Players have the option to either accept or reject the qualifying offer. If they reject it, negotiations continue and players then have the option to file for salary arbitration by July 5. That doesn’t preclude negotiations from continuing, but sets up a scenario where a date would be set before an independent arbitrator later in the summer to hear arguments from both sides and ultimately issue a binding ruling.
The vast majority of players who file for salary arbitration ultimately reach a deal before the hearing date.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has already indicated he expects several players to go that route as is their right, but advised fans not to read anything more into it.
Key Jets such as Hellebuyck, Trouba, Morrissey and Lowry are looking at substantial salary increases that wouldn’t come close to being covered by their qualifying offers.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.