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This article was published 4/2/2019 (475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
By every account, the Winnipeg Jets have done right by Nic Petan off the ice this season.
The organization gave him time following the sudden death of his father on Sept. 18 during training camp. Team representatives went to the funeral. They’ve worked closely with him and his grieving family. It’s been a commendable, first-class response.
All of which makes the next part of this story so difficult for everyone involved. To put it succinctly, Petan’s on-ice career is going nowhere fast as long as he remains in Winnipeg. The sooner he gets out, the better.
As positive as the personal side has been, the professional side has been a disaster for the 23-year-old forward.
I take you back to Saturday night at Bell MTS Place. For the first time in 16 games, Petan got to participate in the pre-game warm-up. The perpetual healthy scratch was on standby after Jack Roslovic cramped up during the morning skate and was uncertain to play against the Anaheim Ducks.
So there was Petan, going through a routine that must have seemed somewhat foreign to him, only to learn just moments before the game started Roslovic was good to go.
So close. But back to the press box he went once again. And what he saw was a dazzling offensive display from his teammates, including the first-ever NHL hat trick from Roslovic in a 9-3 rout of the Ducks.
Down in the Jets’ dressing room following the game, I couldn’t help but spot Petan, clad in his suit, standing off to the side by himself as a huge scrum gathered around Roslovic to talk about his big night.
And if that scene didn’t have you feeling a bit sorry for a guy who hasn’t played since Dec. 22, then you might want to check your ticker to make sure it’s still functional.
Petan has been the good soldier, never complaining publicly about his situation. He’s been passed by numerous players on the depth chart this season and will likely only see the ice again with the Jets if enough injuries pile up.
Earlier Saturday, Petan had faced the cameras to talk about his situation. Colleague Jason Bell and I had reported in Saturday’s Free Press how Petan’s agent, Joe Oliver, told us Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was trying to find a change of scenery for his client by shopping him around the league. Naturally, other scribes wanted to ask Petan if he desired a fresh start.
"It’s a tough answer. A fresh start is a little bit of a tough wording, I’d say. But always looking forward to the next opportunity," Petan replied.
He also addressed the mental grind of trying to stay ready despite being told his services aren’t required for the past five weeks, and counting.
"I think not many players go through what I’m going through, not playing so much. All I can do is do my workouts and practise hard, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I think I’m ready to go whenever," Petan said.
"Just work hard, come to the rink, enjoy the time with the guys and stay as positive as you can. But some days you can’t. Some days are better than others. I think just stay as positive as you can."
Petan admitted he’s aware of the trade speculation, calling it a "touchy subject around the room in here."
"I think those things are out of my control. Opportunities are everywhere in this league. Whatever happens, it is what it is," he said. "I think I’m confident with my game and what I do out there. I think the big thing is getting into an NHL game where I’m comfortable playing my game. Obviously, that hasn’t happened in a while."
Later that morning, coach Paul Maurice applauded Petan for how he’s handled the entire situation, while attempting to explain why he hasn’t called his number.
"It’s a tough role for him. We’ve been a pretty good team for a while now in terms of our record over the past two months, so there hasn’t been a spot to get him into the lineup," Maurice said.
The bench boss praised Petan for how he played in his last appearance, calling him one of the few "bright spots" in a sluggish 1-0 victory over Vancouver just before the Christmas break. Two nights earlier, Petan helped set up Mason Appleton’s first-ever NHL goal. Appleton, of course, is one of the young players who has now passed Petan on the depth chart, along with Roslovic and Brendan Lemieux, who also scored Saturday night.
All of which no doubt rubs a bit more salt in the wound.
So, here’s the big dilemma if you’re Cheveldayoff. Given how little he’s played, Petan likely isn’t going to bring back much of a haul in a trade. He has two assists in 13 games this season, bringing him to 23 points in 108 career regular-season games.
For a Jets team that has Stanley Cup aspirations, why would you simply give Petan away for almost nothing right now?
No, he’s not playing any kind of a role for you at this point. But who’s to say the injury bug doesn’t bite hard down the road? Petan is a valuable insurance policy at this point, far more so than the mid-round draft pick you might get in return.
As a pending restricted free agent, Petan remains under team control beyond this season, so there’s no risk of losing him for nothing next summer, which is why Winnipeg hasn’t tried to send him to the Manitoba Moose on waivers. They likely know another team would make a claim on the former Western Hockey League scoring star who no doubt has plenty of skill and perhaps could flourish if given another opportunity elsewhere.
Yes, the Jets have done right by Petan off the ice, but when it comes to what’s best on the ice, it’s tough to see a resolution that is best for everyone.
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.
Updated on Monday, February 4, 2019 at 12:07 PM CST: Adds photo