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It maybe took a bit longer than expected. But Eric Comrie can now focus solely on trying to land the backup goaltending job with the Winnipeg Jets after signing a new contract Thursday.
Comrie, 23, inked a one-year, two-way deal worth US$650,000 in the NHL. The Edmonton product played three games with the Jets last season, going 1-2 with a 3.99 GAA and .872 save percentage. He carried a much heavier workload with the Manitoba Moose, going 18-13-3 with a 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage in the regular season.
“We knew it was going to get done all summer. Wasn’t really worried about that. It was just letting the Jets take care of some other pieces, and that one just fell into place there,” Comrie said Thursday following a skate at the Bell MTS Iceplex with many Jets regulars.
“We weren’t arguing about money. It was just they had to get some contracts done, and we really started talking about a week ago. So it took place, actually, really fast.”
Comrie was one of just two remaining restricted free agents. The other, of course, is defenceman Josh Morrissey. Talks continue between his agent and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, and a new deal is expected before training camp starts next Thursday.
Comrie, selected by the Jets in the second round (59th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft, is expected to challenge Laurent Brossoit for the backup role behind No.1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets signed Brossoit during the summer to a one-year deal also worth US$650,000.
“My goal is obviously to help the Jets win the Stanley Cup. And I’ll do that any way possible,” said Comrie, who trains during the summer with both Brossoit and Hellebuyck under the same strength coach.
The organizational crease got a bit less crowded this summer as Steve Mason (trade), Michael Hutchinson (not re-signed) and Jamie Phillips (not re-signed) all departed.
Comrie said he took some extra time off this summer following a busy season that included two rounds of playoffs with the Moose. The idea was to help clear his mind, which is often easier said than done.
“As a goalie you have to learn to just let things go, and I’ve had some problems with that in the past. Now that I’ve really learned how to deal with that stuff… I’m excited to use it,” he said. “Just getting away from the game. This is the first time I took time off, really, in almost my whole career. The summer before I was at World Championships, and I think I took five days off the ice, and I was skating again. This summer I didn’t start skating until July, and that’s really going to help me…. I’m refreshed and I’m really excited to play hockey right now.”
Comrie praised the play of Hellebuyck and said he expects the Vezina Trophy finalist not to miss a beat this coming season, where expectations for the organization will be higher than ever.
“I knew he was going to do that all along. I saw him play with the Moose, I saw his numbers in college. He’s always been an excellent goaltender. Maybe his first year, some people didn’t think it went well. But he still had 20 wins in the NHL on a rookie season. That’s pretty phenomenal. And last year was incredible what he did. I knew it was going to happen. And I have no doubt he can continue that for a long time,” said Comrie.
“Your goals change from making the playoffs to winning the Stanley Cup. This organization has got a lot to be excited about. I’m just really happy to be part of it.”
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.