Samberg feels time is right to make jump to Jets

Dylan Samberg was denied a chance to go for a third straight college hockey championship this spring, but got his hands on a pretty sweet consolation prize — his first-ever NHL contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

Samberg, 21, inked a three-year entry level deal on Tuesday that carries an average annual value of US $1.175 million. The contract begins for the 2020-21 season.

“Our season ended a lot sooner than planned,” Samberg said in a mid-afternoon Zoom conference call with media. “I was planning after this season to hopefully move on and maybe possibly get that time in the NHL this year. But after this virus happened, that kind of got put aside. We were kind of waiting, my family and I, and talking. There was no need to rush, but we eventually came to a deal that I liked and jumped on,”

Selected by the Jets in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Samberg was in his junior season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The left-shooting defenceman, who stands 6-4 and weighs 215 pounds, had a career-best 21 points (one goal, 20 assists) in 28 regular-season games, with 18 penalty minutes and a plus-17 rating. He also had two assists in seven games with the United States junior team at the world championships.

UMD won two consecutive NCAA Frozen Four titles and were in prime position for a rare three-peat, ranked fourth-overall at the time the COVID-19 pandemic shut the season and playoffs down.

The Jets wanted Samberg to turn pro last summer, but he opted to return to school for another year. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Jets wanted Samberg to turn pro last summer, but he opted to return to school for another year. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Jets wanted Samberg to turn pro last summer, but he opted to return to school for another year. He had the option of returning for a senior season this fall, but ultimately decided against it.

“My family and I talked about it, but I wanted to move forward. I felt like this was a good time for me and I was ready for it. I’m obviously going to miss UMD because it was the college I dreamed of going to. But you’ve got to move on with life and hopefully it’s going to work out for me,” said Samberg.

Samberg will compete for full-time work on the Jets blue-line, which has undergone an extreme makeover in the past year. Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all moved last summer and Dustin Byfuglien is expected to have his contract terminated in the coming weeks after missing the past season to contemplate retirement while also undergoing ankle surgery.

Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Tucker Poolman, Sami Niku, Ville Heinola and Carl Dahlstrom are all under contract while Dylan DeMelo, Dmitry Kulikov, Nathan Beaulieu, Anthony Bitetto and Luca Sbisa are all pending free agents.

“Obviously it’s exciting for him and for our team and us. I’ve only really had the chance to see him play at the world junior for a couple of years and obviously he’s a big, strong defenceman and it’s exciting to have him into the fold,” Morrissey said Tuesday of Samberg.

“Obviously he’s had a three really good years at school and it’ll be a great addition to our team, hopefully as soon as possible in the future and hopefully for many years going forward.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
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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.

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