All is quiet on the Kyle Connor contract front. But the high-scoring Winnipeg Jets winger insists he’s not worried about what that means for his status going forward.
Connor, 22, met the media Wednesday at Southwood Golf & Country Club ahead of competing in the Player’s Cup golf tournament, which gets underway Thursday. He is a sponsor’s exemption in the 156-player field, in which the top touring professionals on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada will compete for $200,000 in total prize money.
“I don’t think it’s anything to press the panic button on. It’s kind of how these things go,” Connor said of his slow-moving contract talks.
He’s a restricted free agent due for a big pay raise after scoring 65 goals during the past two seasons with the Jets, playing primarily on the top line with captain Blake Wheeler and top centre Mark Scheifele.
Teammate Patrik Laine is also an RFA waiting on a new deal. The two are among a number of high-profile young stars who are without contracts as we head into mid-August, with training camps set to open around the NHL in early September.
“Honestly, keeping in touch with the agent, if anything important comes up he’ll give me a call. We’ve talked, nothing really going on right now,” Connor said when asked for an update.
“It’s something out of your control. When it happens, it’ll happen.”
It appears agents and general managers are playing a big game of chicken, not wanting to be the first to set the market. Other notable RFAs include Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Tampa’s Brayden Point, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen.
“Usually you already know what’s going on and you have plans, everything like that. But right now it’s no different from a training aspect. Still focusing on getting better as a player, taking time at the gym or on the ice. It’s definitely a different summer and something new.” — Kyle Connor
“It’s definitely different. Usually you already know what’s going on and you have plans, everything like that. But right now it’s no different from a training aspect. Still focusing on getting better as a player, taking time at the gym or on the ice. It’s definitely a different summer and something new,” said Connor.
There has been some talk that a player such as Connor could be ripe for an offer sheet from another team, especially after Montreal gave one to Sebastian Aho on July 1, which Carolina quickly matched.
“I think it raised everybody’s eyebrows, for sure. We hadn’t seen one for so long. It was interesting,” said Connor.
As for a short-term bridge deal or a long-term extension, Connor said his preference is to go big.
“We’ll look at everything, but probably focus a little more on long term,” he said.
If a deal can’t be done by the start of training camp, Connor will find himself as a spectator.
“I don’t think that’s the goal, nobody wants to miss training camp. But things happen, so we’ll see,” he said. “I’ll be prepared if it happens.”
The Jets have undergone major changes this summer, with Jacob Trouba sent packing in a trade and Brandon Tanev, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all leaving in free agency.
“… I think we have great guys in the system, we have great players and I trust in the management and coaching staff. We’ll make up for them” — Kyle Connor
“It’s obviously tough to see those types of players go. Great teammates and good friends as well. But I think we have great guys in the system, we have great players and I trust in the management and coaching staff. We’ll make up for them,” said Connor.
He quickly shot down suggestions Winnipeg’s window for capturing a Stanley Cup has been shut.
“No, we’re going to be a good team, for sure,” said Connor.
For now, he shifts his focus to his golf game. Connor tees off in Thursday’s final group at 2:30 p.m., then plays his second round on Friday at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free this year to all spectators as the Player’s Cup celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Scheifele played in the event last year as a sponsor’s exemption, with rounds of 87-86. Connor believes he can beat that.
“That’s definitely one of the goals,” he said.
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