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This article was published 4/9/2019 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Could the Winnipeg Jets be closing in on a long-term extension with one of their most prized young players?
No, not Kyle Connor. And no, not Patrik Laine. We're talking about top-pairing defenceman Josh Morrissey, who revealed Wednesday that contract talks are underway.
"I've always maintained I want to be a Jet and I want to play here in Winnipeg. I'd love to get something done," Morrissey said following an hour-long skate at Bell MTS Iceplex in advance of the start of training camp next week.
"As a player, you just want to go through the process and handle it the right way. But I'd love to get something done and I'd love to play here throughout my career. We'll see what happens."
Morrissey missed the start of camp last September as part of a contract impasse, only to sign a two-year deal a few days later worth $3.15 million per season. The 24-year-old Calgary native will once again be a restricted free agent again next summer, this time with arbitration rights, but is hopeful any future drama can be avoided.
"We've chatted a little bit throughout the last couple of weeks and throughout the summer," said Morrissey. "It's exciting. But at the same time, throughout that span, I'm really just focused on preparing for the season and if something happens to get done, that would be awesome. I'm sure it will all be figured out in due time.
"I just feel like (Winnipeg) is a great fit for me and as a person."
Laine and Connor are current RFAs who need new deals, and it appears more likely with each passing day that they won't be signed in time for the official start of training camp on Sept. 13. A seven-game exhibition schedule begins Sept. 16.
"Obviously, we want both those guys here; obviously, they're amazing players," he said. "I understand it's just kind of the business of things, until there's a new rule in place or something like that, it's probably what's going to happen each year."
Indeed, Connor and Laine are among several high-profile young NHL stars still without contracts. Other big names include Colorado's Mikko Rantanen, Toronto's Mitch Marner, Tampa's Brayden Point and Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk.
"It's just sort of the way things seem to be working right now. I don't think anyone loves that it is the way it is. I went through it myself. With the CBA and the rules the way they are, it's just something that seems to happen," said Morrissey.
"It's part of the game at the moment right now. Until there's a change that would benefit both sides, it is the way it is."
Morrissey said his own experience last year was a real eye-opener.
"It's your first time where, for me, you kind of experience the business side of the game. It was just a process that wasn't a whole lot of fun. Anyone would be remiss if they didn't have that thought in their mind every day, 'Are we going to get something done or not?' At the same time, you look at the way this trend has been going, so I think everyone is kind of prepared it might take some time," he said.
That could be bad news for a Jets team that has already undergone major changes this summer, including the departures of forward Brandon Tanev and defencemen Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers in free agency, plus the trade of Morrissey's longtime blue-line partner Jacob Trouba.
"It's tough. (Trouba) and I have become really good friends. It was tough to see a friend go. Obviously that's part of the business we're in. But it was hard," said Morrissey.
"Losing him and Mysey and Benny, three great guys in the room and three great players. We have to, from within, find a way to step up. I think we've got some really good young players on the back end. As a group we're going to have to be better this year and all take our game to the next level."
Morrissey isn't sure who he'll be paired with, although Dustin Byfuglien or Neal Pionk (acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for Trouba) seem like the likely candidates.
"I'm guessing there's going to be some shuffling around to see what works and what fits," said Morrissey. "Sometimes as a player it's fun to get to know new guys and new teammates. I think we're all kind of excited to see how everything shakes out and what works the best."
Morrissey isn't concerned all the turnover means doom and gloom for the local club.
"It's kind of the evolution of a team. There's always going to be changes, additions, subtractions. Those three guys were big pieces of the back end. I think I'd be concerned, I guess, if I didn't feel like we didn't have some good young players here that can come in and I think ready to take the next step in their game as well," said Morrissey, who puts himself in that category as well.
"That's definitely my goal. I feel like as a player all you want is opportunity. To have the chance to take yourself to the next level and improve your game. I worked hard through the off-season and the opportunity's there to step up and improve. For that part of things I'm excited about that opportunity."
As for Trouba, Morrissey won't have to wait very long to see his old partner, as the Jets begin the 2019-20 regular season on Oct. 3 in New York playing the Rangers.
"The schedule maker obviously had that one circled. It'll be fun to play in. It'll be weird as well," said Morrissey.
"(Trouba) has got a fresh new deal as well (seven years, $56-million). I made sure to mention that he'd be taking us out for dinner in New York. We'll have to try to find a nice restaurant to run the bill up a little bit."
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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