Mark Scheifele has been rewarded for his breakout 2015-16 season with an eight-year contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets.
The 23-year-old center will earn $6.125 million annually over the length of the contract that runs until the 2023-24 season. And it may end up being a bargain for the Jets.
Scheifele was sneaky one of the best players in the entire league in the final couple months of the season. When Bryan Little went down with a neck injury on February 18, Scheifele took on a larger role. From that point on till the end of the season, his average ice-time increased from 17 minutes per game to 20 minutes and he scored 17 goals and had 34 points in 26 games, good for a points-per-game average of 1.30. That's Crosby-level production. He finished the season with 61 points, second on the Jets to Blake Wheeler's 78.
But if Scheifele continues to improve year-over-year as he has been, he will be the Jets leading scorer for a long time to come. Scheifele has improved his goal and point totals in each of his first three full NHL seasons. Hitting the 30-goal plateau next season seems like a lock.
Scheifele should also have a new weapon to work with next season in No. 2 overall pick Patrik Laine. The left winger should be a lock to make the team out of training camp, and a top line of Laine-Scheifele-Wheeler should have Jets fans excited for next year, and the future.
Scheifele's deal is the third largest in terms of AAV signed by restricted free agents this summer. Aaron Ekblad got $7.5 million over eight years from the Panthers, and Nathan MacKinnon, who's deal was announced moments after Scheifele's, will earn $6.3 over seven years.
Scheifele wrapped up his season by helping Canada win a gold medal at the World Championship, where he had nine points in nine games. He will also be part of the North America young stars team at the World Cup.
The Kitchener, Ont., native was the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft.