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THE impasse is over: Josh Morrissey is under contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
It took at least a few days longer than anyone expected, spilling over from summer into the start of training camp, but Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff managed to check off the last box on his off-season to-do list, signing Morrissey to a two-year contract worth US$6.3 million (an average annual value of US$3.15 million) on Sunday.
Morrissey, whose three-year entry-level deal ended July 1, missed Thursday’s medical testing, on-ice fitness assessments Friday and two days of on-ice sessions at Jets training camp at the Iceplex.
He’s expected to skate this morning, but won’t suit up for Winnipeg’s first pre-season contest in the evening against the Minnesota Wild, 7 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.
Neither he nor the Jets management was made available for comment Sunday. Speaking with the Free Press in late August, Morrissey expressed a willingness to get his name on a new contract.
“Everyone’s confident it will be handled and done, definitely in time for the season,” Morrissey had said. “Every player handles these things differently… I’m just focused on training throughout the summer.”
Winnipeg will still control the talented young defenceman’s rights when the contract expires in the summer of 2020.
It’s considered as a bridge deal, which is what Morrissey is believed to have sought. While he’s potentially leaving some money on the table, he and his representatives are confident in his trajectory as an emerging star and will look to cash in on his next deal.
He’ll be 25 when he negotiates his next contract, again as an RFA.
For its part, Winnipeg gets a solid, puck-moving blue-liner with a high hockey IQ at an affordable cap hit for two seasons while the team challenges for a Stanley Cup.
Morrissey played most of the 2017-18 campaign on the team’s top defensive pairing with Jacob Trouba. Morrissey had 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) and 47 penalty minutes in 81 games for the Jets last season.
The Calgary product also led the club with 168 blocked shots, 12th most among all NHL players.
The former 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).
Veteran defenceman Tyler Myers said Sunday, just hours before the signing was announced, that he and his teammates had taken a pragmatic approach to 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 regulars across the league still without a contract as preseason unfolds, including Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and Shea Theodore, a blue-liner with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Each one of Cheveldayoff’s summer projects is complete, including locking up No.1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a six-year, US$37-million contract. Trouba, meanwhile, was awarded a one-year US$5.5-million deal through arbitration.
Jets centre Adam Lowry agreed to a three-year, US$8.75-million contract, while forwards Brandon Tanev, Nic Petan and Marko Dano and blue-liners Tucker Poolman and Joe Morrow also agreed to new deals.
Winnipeg’s current salary hit is now about US$72.5 million for the season, about $7 million under the cap. But the club is also expecting another $4 million to go toward bonuses.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).