Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Signed, sealed... up to Scheifele to deliver

Rookie inks entry contract, will play vs. Habs

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There was only one proclamation on Monday, that 18-year-old Mark Scheifele will be in the lineup for the historic season-opening game Sunday at the MTS Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.

Beyond that, the contract the seventh-overall pick of the 2011 draft signed earlier in the day with the Winnipeg Jets has become a tryout extension and little more.

No declarations of saviour or as the answer to all future problems.

"Right now there really are no expectations," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "He'll be in the lineup opening night and we'll take it day by day. There's no guarantee of anything.

"I met with him this morning and we're all on the same page, that we know it's an accomplishment that he's gotten to this point and we're just going to evaluate it on a daily basis and a game-by-game basis.

"This is still about development. The National Hockey League is a very tough league to develop in. So again, he has to show progress each and every time."

OK, maybe there was one declaration.

Scheifele, the kid who always seems to be smiling from ear to ear, said his smile was even wider on Monday after he signed the prescribed three-year, entry-level deal. It's for the maximum salary of $925,000 (US) per season and includes a possible $2.1 million in bonuses. That makes his annual cap charge $1.625 million.

"(The smile) got a little bigger today. A pretty happy moment for me," Scheifele said after the team's practice at the MTS Iceplex, which saw him skating on a line with Evander Kane.

After leading the team with four goals and eight points in five exhibition games, Scheifele knows exactly what Monday's signing means for his future.

"It's still a lot of hard work," he said. "I'm still going to work my hardest to make the team and stay here all year. It's just giving me the opportunity right now to show what I can do."

He admitted to some anxiety over the weekend, with the NHL's deadline for signing junior-aged players coming up today.

"I didn't really have a big, huge part in it," he said. "My agent (Rob Hooper) did a lot of it and then it was, 'Oh, we found a deal.' It was a little bit stressful because it was coming down day by day. I'm happy it's done now."

Cheveldayoff was also fairly grinning on Monday, probably because the rookie GM's first first-round draft pick has made an impression already.

"We're very excited about his training camp and very happy to have signed him to a contract," Cheveldayoff said.

The deal was also pleasing news to the team, which reportedly saluted the rookie before practice.


Captain Andrew Ladd, who had already endorsed the idea of Scheifele staying with the team after a game-tying goal on Friday, said the offence is not why his teammates heartily support Monday's development.

"The fact that there's more to his game than just scoring points, I think we as a team noticed that and for us, that's what stands out more," Ladd said. "Seventh overall... he's got skill and that's going to take care of itself. It's the other stuff that's pretty impressive."

Ladd said that at some point during training camp, the doubts about Scheifele's capabilities subsided.

"I guess there's a certain period of time when you're proving yourself," he said. "The thing about him is that he's been so consistent throughout the camp, which is a pretty strong thing for a kid his age."

Defenceman Zach Bogosian, who was in exactly this spot three years ago -- an 18-year-old high-first-round pick who signed -- said Scheifele deserves to stay in his peers' opinion.

"Any time you talk to him, you can tell as a person he's willing to learn," he said. "He wants to be good. It's fun to see. As a player, I think he's really smart and does a lot of the little things people don't notice but as hockey players, you notice."

Cheveldayoff said Monday that this was no hasty signing, that all the bases have been covered in Scheifele's case.

"He's a humble person," Cheveldayoff said. "A lot of people might have gotten caught up in the situation but to his credit, his family's credit, his agent's credit, he has been very, very grounded from the moment we drafted him.

"He's earned what he's gotten to this point. We hope he continues to earn it."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2011 D1


Updated on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 9:49 AM CDT: Formats, adds art.

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