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What exactly do the Jets have with Bogosian?

Big decision on potential of young D-man upcoming

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It's hard to get a handle on just what Zach Bogosian is and what he's going to be and therein lies the difficulty when attempting to determine his worth.

The 21-year-old defenceman is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights and talks between his people and the Winnipeg Jets have yet to bear fruit in the manner of a new contract.

Bogosian is among three young, high-profile rearguards in similar situations. Los Angeles Kings star Drew Doughty and Luke Schenn of the Toronto Maple Leafs are also unsigned at this stage.

The main difference between Bogosian and the other two blue-liners is they have already declared with their play what can be expected of them in the future.

"They were comparable players in junior but haven't been to date as pros," said one NHL executive. "It's difficult to know what Winnipeg has in Bogosian at this point. He may very well turn into a fine player but that has only been demonstrated in flashes so far."

Doughty is an unqualified star, a No. 1 with elite skills at both ends of the rink and easily among the 15 best defencemen in the NHL.

The Kings are attempting to sign him and have made no secret of how they value him with GM Dean Lombardi on the record saying he'd make Doughty his highest paid player if he would take a long-term deal.

Anze Kopitar is L.A.'s highest paid player with an average annual salary of $6.8 million through 2015-16.

Schenn has shown he's a character player with defensive strengths but far less upside as an offensive player. He's unlikely to become an elite defenceman and projects to fit more in the second tier.

Bogosian, who has 24 goals and 35 assists in 199 NHL games, is a little more of a mystery. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Massena, N.Y., has all the physical attributes and raw ability to be elite. But to this point is nowhere near as accomplished as Doughty, or Schenn for that matter.

Last season he ranked third in time-on-ice among Atlanta Thrashers defenceman, scored five goals and 12 assists and was a minus 27 on a Thrashers team that did not make the playoffs.

Bogosian has more upside than Schenn but at this stage can't be considered one of Winnipeg's top two defenders with Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom clearly rating higher.

"He can't go to training camp without a contract and we'd like to have something in place well before that," said Bogosian's agent Bob Murray. "The best way to describe talks is they are ongoing. We continue to talk. (Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) is overseas this week so I'm not expecting to hear from him for a few days."

The Jets refused to comment on an ongoing negotiation.

The options for Bogosian are limited. He can sign a contract, elect to stay home unsigned and unpaid, hope for an offer sheet from another club or look to be traded.

Murray wasn't interested in comparing Bogosian to other young defencemen in the league.

"We're just trying to determine where he fits in the overall market," he said. "I'd rather not get into comparables. I've been at this a long time and maybe you would call me old school but I don't like to negotiate in the media."

Length of term will be a major determining factor in where Bogosian fits in from a Jets perspective.

If it's a one-year deal they'll want to pay the defenceman for where he ranks in the marketplace today. The Jets would be required to offer Bogosian a qualifying offer of 100 per cent of his previous season's base salary at the end of the one year deal in order to extend his restricted free agency status. Any raise Bogosian received would in essence be extended for at least two years.

A bridge deal of two years will bring a little more cash and a long-term deal that eliminates the spectre of unrestricted free agency for several years will garner even more money.

The Jets would almost certainly be willing to sign a longer deal, even if they're not sure about Bogosian and what he will turn out to be, providing the contract is moveable.

The Rangers recently signed Marc Staal to a five-year, US$19.875 million pact and while that may be a little rich for what Bogosian has shown to date, it's an example of a contract that won't scare other teams away.

The start of training camp is the only time factor for this deal and even that's a false deadline. But one should expect talks to heat up the closer camp gets as neither side appears interested in negotiations dragging beyond that point.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2011 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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