Jets Should Enjoy Morrissey Contract While It Lasts

Josh Morrissey’s bridge deal is tremendous value-wise for the Winnipeg Jets. When it expires, it’s going to be tremendous value-wise for Josh Morrissey.

The Jets first-round draft pick in 2013 has panned out better than anyone had dared hope. It’s been a bumpy path at times for Morrissey, but these days he’s a true number one defenseman on the left side.

Most No. 1 defensemen don’t get paid as little as Morrissey is right now on his bridge deal. On Sunday, Sept. 16, in the midst of training camp, Morrissey signed a two-year deal worth $6.3 million to get himself into camp.

With 26 points in 82 games last year, a steady improvement in all aspects of his game, and the physicality and speed to play against the league’s best every night, Morrissey is a go-to-guy. He’s soon to be paid like it.

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey (Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

In his second full NHL season, Morrissey’s point production went up despite little to no power play time. He sees the tough matchups with partner Jacob Trouba every night and has gotten better with each passing month.

If that improvement continues, Morrissey is going to be the cornerstone of the Jets defense on the left side. And, as Morrissey is betting on, the Jets will need to back the money truck up to his house in two years.

Morrissey’s Deal Present-Oriented

At the end of August, the Winnipeg Jets signed Blake Wheeler to a deal that was clearly signed with a win-now mentality. Josh Morrissey’s will be another on that list.

The idea on Morrissey’s deal is to win while it’s still cheap. After next season, with a ton of high-profile RFAs to re-sign, most notably Patrik Laine, the Jets likely won’t have too much room to add.

For Winnipeg, this is delaying the inevitable with the idea of leaving flexibility to add right now. There are still a few holes in the Jets lineup, and they could perhaps use another top-six forward, so getting Morrissey signed for this deal during their window of opportunity was key.

Morrissey becomes the latest in a long list of Jets who will need new deals in a short time. We’ve touched on Laine above, but Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, and now Morrissey will all need new deals within two years.

That’s not to mention Jack Roslovic, who will soon outgrow his entry-level contract and, if recent months are any indication, be in line for a raise of his own. The Jets, like the Blackhawks before them, are paying the price for drafting well.

For a physical, two-way blueliner with among the best puck-moving skills in the league, Morrissey’s price wasn’t too high. At least, not yet.

Morrissey Will Get Paid

The steady upward trend in Josh Morrissey’s game is indicative of a player ready to become a top-pair defenseman on a permanent basis. Thes players simply don’t sign for $3.15 million once they hit their primes, which Morrissey soon will.

Look around the NHL for comparables, notably from elsewhere in the 2012 to 2014 draft range, and you’ll see some big money deals among the defensemen. Hampus Lindholm, for instance, takes in north of $5 million, and his contract is one of the more cap-friendly ones.

Then there’s Matt Dumba, who earned over $6 million last year. While there’s a gap between the two right now in terms of production, it’s worth remembering that Dumba is a year older and sees time on the power play.

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey

Josh Morrissey does his scoring at 5-on-5 while preventing the other team from doing any of their own. (Photo: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

From Morrissey’s own draft year, Rasmus Ristolainen’s salary sits at $5.4 million. Many others still haven’t rounded into form, and Darnell Nurse just negotiated a contract similar to Morrissey’s. Still, the value of a player of Morrissey’s caliber is clear.

NHL player values seem to be headed up all the time as the cap rises and teams compete with each other to attract free agents with steadily more ridiculous deals. With that in mind and Morrissey’s current upward track, $6 million per year is likely to be the asking price when it comes time for Morrissey to re-up.

When that happens, the Jets will have to do some shuffling in all likelihood. As has been discussed in the past, the Jets can’t keep this entire core together and be cap compliant. As such, the Jets window to win is now while so many of their best still play on entry-level deals or bridge contracts like Morrissey’s.

When the time comes to pay the piper, the Jets are going to have to pay through the nose. Players like Morrissey aren’t cheap, and he won’t ask to be treated like it.

So congratulations to the Winnipeg Jets on getting Josh Morrissey on a short-term deal that’s friendly for the moment. Enjoy it while it lasts, and more importantly, win while it lasts. Winning will get trickier when this core starts needing big raises.