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Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff crossed two more items off his extensive summer to-do list Tuesday, getting forward Marko Dano and defenceman Tucker Poolman signed to new contracts.
Dano, 23, was the lone remaining restricted free agent who had filed for salary arbitration. But the Jets avoided the scheduled July 30 hearing by inking the Austrian-born winger to a one-year, $800,000 contract. That represents a pay cut of $50,000 for Dano, who spent the majority of last season on the outside looking in as a healthy scratch.
The former first-round draft pick (27th overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored two goals and one assist in 24 regular-season games with the Jets. He could get an opportunity to earn more playing time this coming season with forwards Paul Stastny, Joel Armia, Matt Hendricks and Shawn Matthias no longer with the organization. The only free-agent forwards signed this summer are depth players who will likely spend the majority of their time with the Manitoba Moose.
Dano has 19 goals and 26 assists in 130 career NHL games. He joined Winnipeg in February 2016 as part of the trade that sent Andrew Ladd to Chicago.
As for Poolman, he made a positive first impression transitioning from college hockey to the NHL. Now the 25-year-old defenceman has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension with an average cap hit of $775,000.
Poolman is coming off a rookie season in which he scored one goal and one assist in 24 games with the Jets. He also had one goal and nine assists in 17 games with the Manitoba Moose.
The fifth-round pick from the 2013 NHL draft had a stellar three-year amateur with the University of North Dakota prior to turning pro. He was a pending restricted free agent without arbitration rights who made $1.775 million on a pretty lucrative entry-level deal.
“I was pretty understanding, they had a lot on their plate,” Poolman told the Free Press Tuesday on essentially waiting in line to get his deal done. “This past week or so, we started talking a little bit more.”
Poolman will likely have to fight for full-time work again this coming season, considering the Jets’ crowded blue line, with Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Dmitry Kulikov, Ben Chiarot and Joe Morrow also signed to NHL deals.
“I tried to make the most of sitting back and learning. I tried to soak it all in. Overall I think it helped me a lot,” Poolman said of last season. “It’s a strong team and lots of good players and lots of good competition. I’m just trying to prepare for this season as best I can.”
Despite not getting his number called on a nightly basis, Poolman said he had no hesitation about signing a multi-year extension with an organization that is trending up.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this organization. It was a good year to be a part of, the team was playing great,” said the Iowa-born D-man, who has plenty of family and friends in North Dakota and Minnesota.
“It’s great being close to home,” he said.
With Dano and Poolman signed, the Jets now have 21 players under contract for the coming season with a projected cap hit of $69.3 million, which could actually grow to $73 million once expected performance bonuses are factored in. That gives them about $6.5 million left to play with to fill out their 23-man roster.
Winnipeg has five still-unsigned RFAs — Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Nic Kerdiles, JC Lipon and Eric Comrie. Morrissey is the big one left on that list, and he’s likely to take a big chunk of the remaining cap space. The only question is whether the team does a long-term extension with him now, or whether a bridge deal is in his immediate future.
The Jets entered this off-season with a slew of players needing new contracts. In addition to Poolman and Dano, they’ve locked-up goalie Connor Hellebuyck (six years, $37 million), Trouba (one year, $5.5 million on an arbitration award the team formally accepted by Tuesday’s deadline), Adam Lowry (three years, $8.75 million), Brandon Tanev (one year, $1.15 million), Morrow (one year, $1 million) and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit (one year, $650,000).
That amounts to nearly $57 million in total salary handed out by the Jets to those players over the various lengths of their contracts.
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.