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NIC Petan is on the cusp of re-signing with the Winnipeg Jets, setting the stage for what will be his most important year of pro hockey yet.
The 23-year-old forward has an offer in front of him for a one-year deal and is expected to put pen to paper today. His agent, Joe Oliver, confirmed the development to the Free Press on Tuesday, but wouldn’t disclose financial terms, other than saying it is the qualifying offer made by the club in late June.
Petan is a restricted free agent coming off an expiring three-year entry-level contract worth a total of US$2.775 million.
The former Western Hockey League scoring star has struggled to carve out a full-time role with the Jets in three seasons. He’s played a total of 95 games, with just five goals and 16 assists. Last year, Petan dressed for only 15 games, scoring twice. He had 52 points in 52 games with the Manitoba Moose.
The path to regular NHL work doesn’t get any easier with the Jets having a strong nucleus in place plus several promising young prospects in the fold, including Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Brendan Lemieux and Kristian Vesalainen.
Oliver told the Free Press earlier this summer his client may ultimately need a change of scenery at some point.
“I think they’re one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NHL, and there’s a little bit of envy because I would like Nic to be part of that,” Oliver said. “But at this point, he seems to be on the outside looking in. He’s chomping at the bit to say, ‘Hey, listen. I want to be part of it.’ But that may not be possible just because of the number of players in front of him.”
Petan does have an opportunity in front of him. The Jets parted ways this summer with forwards Paul Stastny, Joel Armia, Matt Hendricks and Shawn Matthias, meaning there are at least a couple of job openings come training camp.
Oliver believes Petan is a top-six NHL forward, although his role to date has been mainly as a bottom-six skater with limited minutes.
“I think it’s really important to say — and I’ve said this to Chevy (Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff) on multiple occasions — Nic loves it there. He loves the city, he loves the team. The environment is great. I think he would want to be part of the Jets for the long term, 100 per cent. The only underlying thing there would be, is there an opportunity for him to play there? And right now, I can tell you I’m not sure that there is,” Oliver said in June.
Once Petan is signed, Cheveldayoff will have just four remaining restricted free agents to deal with. The biggest remains top-pairing defenceman Josh Morrissey, along with Moose forwards JC Lipon and Nic Kerdiles, and Moose goalie Eric Comrie.
All is currently quiet on the Morrissey front. His agent, Gerry Johannson, did not return messages on Tuesday seeking an update.
The big question appears to be whether Morrissey signs a short-term “bridge” deal or a long-term extension. A bridge deal would likely carry a smaller cap hit, which could be of benefit to the Jets considering how tight they are likely going to be to the US$79.5-million maximum.
In addition to the RFAs, Cheveldayoff also needs to get Vesalainen signed to his entry-level contract.
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.