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The impasse is over: Josh Morrissey is under contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
The emerging star defenceman was signed Sunday to a two-year contract worth US$6.3 million, with an average annual value of US$3.15 million.
A restricted free agent, he had missed the missed the first three days of the team’s training camp until the agreement was reached.
His three-year entry-level deal had ended July 1.
Morrissey, 23, had 26 points (7G, 19A) and 47 penalty minutes in 81 games for the Jets last season.
He played much of the season on the team’s top defensive pairing with Jacob Trouba.
The Calgary product, a first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft, has played 164 games, all with the Jets, in his NHL career and has 46 points (13G, 33A).
Earlier today, veteran blue-liner Tyler Myers said he and his teammates had taken a pragmatic approach Morrissey’s predicament.
“I think any guy would say we want Josh in the room as fast as we can, but we understand there’s a business side of things. I would think that it’s not going to be too long until we see him,” Myers said. “Knowing Josh the last few years and how he prepares, he’s become a pro at such a young age, that he won’t have any problems stepping in a little later.”
Morrissey had been one of a number of high-profile NHL regulars still without a contract as camps continue across the league, including Toronto’s William Nylander, Edmonton defenceman Darnell Nurse, and Shea Theodore, a blue-liner with Vegas.
NHL hockey returns to Winnipeg Monday night as the Jets drop the puck on their seven-game pre-season schedule.
But the team that will take to the ice at Bell MTS Place against the Minnesota Wild will be a far cry from the one that finished them off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
Coach Paul Maurice doesn’t plan to use too many NHL regulars off the top as he gets an early look at players who would be either on the bubble to make the team or likely to start the season elsewhere, whether that’s with the Manitoba Moose or back in junior.
“We’ll spread the veterans thin over the first three (games),” Maurice said Sunday.
He’ll likely use the line of Bryan Little, Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers Monday night, Adam Lowry-Andrew Copp-Brandon Tanev Thursday in Edmonton and the Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler-Kyle Connor trio Friday night back in Winnipeg against the Calgary Flames.
“Everything under that will be guys trying out and us trying to get a feel for where certain players are,” said Maurice.
As for goaltenders, expect it to either be Laurent Brossoit or Eric Comrie tonight, with the other going Thursday. Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck will likely make his first start Friday, then play at least two more exhibition games after that.
There’s plenty of buzz around the NHL about recent moves by Western Conference teams such as Vegas (Max Pacioretty) and San Jose (Erik Karlsson) to bolster their lineups.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler didn’t join the chorus Sunday, saying nothing gets decided on paper in September.
“Nobody has played a game yet. Who knows if anyone has improved?” Wheeler said. “We don’t know if we’re any better or if anyone else is any better. Once games get going on, we’ll see what’s what.”
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