Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

This Frolik thing could work

Has potential to be here for the long term

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Michael Frolik could be here for a short time, but Winnipeg Jets management would like him to be here for a long time.

Frolik is not the typical stop-gap pickup, a regularly-used component of Kevin Cheveldayoff's strategy to date. This player has the potential to stay beyond the expiry date of his current contract and become part of the future and a piece of the furniture around here.

 

If Frolik can contribute, Cheveldayoff will try to keep him. It's a one-year audition for both the player and the club. If they decide they like each other, they'll try to make a marriage next summer.

A draft-day acquisition with one year left on his current contract and headed to restricted free agency this summer, the Jets are hoping Frolik can convince them to extend his stay.

Frolik has the foundation of a game that will always keep him in demand. Can he move up in the lineup? There's evidence to suggest he can.

Frolik, due to the opportunity the Jets present him and the presence of best friend Ondrej Pavelec, would like the same.

The 25-year-old has a pair of 20-goal seasons and a Stanley Cup on his resume. Frolik can skate, create and check. On a very good team, last year's Chicago Blackhawks for instance, he's a bottom-six player and an elite penalty killer.

On a non-playoff team like the Jets, Frolik could expand his role. Forty-point players that can kill penalties and log strong minutes on a third line are key to teams that aspire to play beyond the start of April.

There's also the consideration of depth. Frolik improves the Jets' bottom six and will push for work in the top six. Winnipeg hasn't had personnel that forced one another to be better, so Frolik represents a step in that direction.

The book on Frolik has two stories. He came to the NHL and was given an offensive role with the Florida Panthers and he flourished, collecting 40-plus points in his first two seasons.

The offence dried up and Florida flipped him to Chicago, where the Blackhawks asked him to take on a checking role. Lots of players balk at such a transition but Frolik took the opportunity and developed a new game.

By the end of last season he was an integral part of the Hawks lineup, scoring 10 points in their playoff run.

Frolik has the foundation of a game that will always keep him in demand. Can he move up in the lineup? There's evidence to suggest he can.

Cheveldayoff has nibbled around the edges of his team with short-term deals for players used as place-holders until his core and draft picks mature. The strategy provides flexibility and doesn't commit the Jets to long marriages with players that can quickly become obsolete.

Frolik, however, is young and has upside. The Jets own him for this season and then he'll be an RFA. An asset to keep or something to have sampled and then walked away from. Cheveldayoff will have options.

The player, as always, will determine what becomes of his time in Winnipeg, but there is impetus for him to stay. Frolik and goalie Pavelec are best friends from a childhood spent together in the Czech Republic city of Kladno.

This is a business and Frolik will do what's best for him, but the presence of Pavelec in Winnipeg doesn't hurt.

Neither does his association with a winning team in Chicago, something Cheveldayoff is familiar with and likes.

The Jets have acquired a number of players that arrived with expiry dates on their time in Winnipeg. Frolik is different. If he contributes he'll be asked to stay and grow with the organization.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2013 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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