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IT appears the Winnipeg Jets and forward Andrew Copp are at a crossroads. And for a second straight summer, an independent arbitrator will be required to settle a contract stalemate.
Copp, 25, a restricted free agent, has filed for a one-year deal at US$2.9 million. The Jets have countered with a two-year offer that would pay US$1.5 million per season.
An arbitrator is set to hear arguments from both sides on Sunday in Toronto if a deal can’t be reached by then. Contract talks can also continue beyond the hearing up until the point a binding two-year decision is rendered, likely later in the week.
“Anything is possible at this point, but we are fully prepared for the hearing on Sunday and look forward to it,” Copp’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, told the Free Press on Friday.
The Jets didn’t have a case go to arbitration for the first seven seasons after returning to Winnipeg, until Jacob Trouba and the team couldn’t agree on a deal last year. The Jets offered US$4 million, Trouba wanted US$7 million, and an arbitrator eventually issued a one-year, US$5.5-million award.
Overhardt was also the agent for Trouba, a defenceman who hails from Michigan, like Copp.
Copp made US$1 million last season, in which he scored a career-high 11 goals along with 14 assists in 69 regular-season games. He also added five assists in six playoff games against the St. Louis Blues.
The 2013 fourth-round draft pick (104th overall) can play both wing and centre and might assume a more prominent role with the club during the 2019-20 season. He is defensively sound and a dependable penalty killer.
Copp is one of four restricted free agents general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff still has to get under contract, with around US$20 million in salary-cap room left to do so.
Defenceman Neil Pionk has an arbitration hearing set for Wednesday, and the two sides will file their demands 48 hours prior. Pionk was acquired in last month’s trade that sent Trouba to the New York Rangers.
Forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are also RFAs but don’t have arbitration rights, meaning their cases could drag out for some time.
It’s worth noting that by having two players file for arbitration, the Jets will now have a 48-hour period to buy out a player, if they choose, beginning on the third day after the final arbitration case is either settled or heard.
There had been rumblings the Jets might go that route on defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, who is in the final year of a contract paying him US$4.33 million for the coming season. Such a move might help give them much-needed breathing room under the cap. However, the first deadline of June 30 came and went.
Whether they use this second chance remains to be seen. Given that the Jets have lost Trouba via trade, and Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot in free agency, they may just opt to keep Kulikov around given his experience — barring another move this summer to bring in an experienced, top-six defender.
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It’s a homecoming, of sorts, for Jeff Finley.
The former NHL defenceman and one-time Winnipeg Jets blue-liner was hired Friday by the organization to be their new amateur scout.
Finley replaces Marcel Comeau, who is retiring from the role of amateur scout this summer.
Finley, 52, has spent the past seven seasons in the Detroit Red Wings scouting department, serving as their chief scout for the past three years. The Edmonton native also spent three years as an assistant coach with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League from 2007-2009.
Finley had a lengthy professional career, playing 708 career NHL games for five different teams, including the 95-96 farewell season with the Jets in Winnipeg before they packed their bags and moved to the desert. Finley also spent that first season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
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.
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