Josh Morrissey is relieved to be back on the ice after a contract dispute sidelined his training camp debut.
The Winnipeg Jets rearguard inked a two-year, US$6.3-million deal with the club on Sunday. The pact will carry an average annual value of $3.15 million.
“It feels like an eternity the last number of days, but I’m super excited to get back on the ice today,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Monday. “The business side is all in the past and I can get back to doing what I do best, which is play hockey.”
Morrissey was practicing with his teammates as recently as last week, but was left on the outside looking in once official training camp began last Friday.
He was the club’s only holdout without a deal.
“It was tough. I mean, really, really tough,” he said. “There’s nothing more than I want but to be with the guys on the ice, in the room. I talked to Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) a little bit: one silver lining is no fitness testing so far,” he said, chuckling, “but who knows, maybe I’ll have to get that done anyway.”
Morrissey attributed his protracted dispute to the busy summer the Jets had to lock up key cogs of their roster, including all five restricted free agents who filed for arbitration.
“We really kind of had a later start on things,” said Morrissey, who described his own contract negotiations as quick and amicable.
He will not play Monday during the club’s first preseason game against the Minnesota Wild, which begins at 7 p.m. CT at Bell MTS Place.
The 13th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft put up a career-high 26 points in 81 games for the Jets last season, while leading the club with 168 block shots.
He added two points, and tied for the team lead in block shots, during the Jets’ playoff run to the Western Conference Final.
The six-foot, 195-pound native of Calgary also had 20 points during 2016-17, his rookie campaign.
Morrissey admits both he and his game have come a long way since.
“Two years ago at camp we were sitting here, talking about if I was going to make the team and how that looked like,” he said. “To be in this situation now is pretty exciting.”
With files from the Canadian Press