July 3, 2020

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Jets trim roster, but biggest storyline still revolves around players not in camp

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/9/2019 (282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets made a first wave of cuts to their training camp roster on Wednesday morning, but there were no surprises.

The 13 players were all expected to need more seasoning with the Manitoba Moose at the AHL level and were not anticipated to be in the Jets lineup when they open the season at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 3 against the New York Rangers.

JETS TRIM TRAINING CAMP ROSTER

The Winnipeg Jets assigned goalie Mikhail Berdin, defencemen Leon Gawanke, Luke Green and Johnathan Kovacevic, and forwards Jansen Harkins and Skyler McKenzie to the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

The Winnipeg Jets assigned goalie Mikhail Berdin, defencemen Leon Gawanke, Luke Green and Johnathan Kovacevic, and forwards Jansen Harkins and Skyler McKenzie to the AHL's Manitoba Moose.

The club also released five players from their professional or amateur tryouts and they will also report to the Moose: goalie Adam Carlson, defenceman Jacob Cederholm, and forwards Cole Maier, Emile Poirier and Kristian Reichel. Forwards Seth Griffith and Logan Shaw will be assigned to the Moose, pending waivers.

The Jets now have 18 forwards, 11 defencemen, and three goalies remaining at training camp.

It's also no surprise the biggest story of training camp continues to be the three players who aren't present — restricted free agent forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who has taken a personal leave.

The list of the NHL's restricted free agents continues to shrink as the Calgary Flames and forward Matthew Tkachuk agreed to a three-year deal worth $7 million per year. The deal makes the 21-year-old the highest-paid player on the Flames.

"It's good to be him," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said with a smile after the team's afternoon training session.

The Calgary Flames and Matthew Tkachuk agreed to a three-year, $7 million per year deal.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/JEFF MCINTOSH

The Calgary Flames and Matthew Tkachuk agreed to a three-year, $7 million per year deal.

Maurice was asked if the latest RFA domino falling gets his hopes up that Laine and Connor will soon sign new deals.

"I don't know that anything has changed with how I feel. You'd like them back. I'm pretty sure when the deal happens we'll hear about it here and they'll show up at the rink."

But until Laine, Connor or Byfuglien, who's been granted a leave of absence from the team as he's contemplating retirement, return, Maurice and the Jets are treating their absences like injuries.

"Yeah, 100 per cent. There's nothing else to this. You're gonna guarantee we'll dress 20 every night and that's exactly how you deal with it because you lose key players over the course of the year all the time and you're still expected to perform," Maurice said. "So, we got three guys right now who (are) hopefully not long-term IR and we'll see them soon."

Until then, players such as Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton and newcomer Andrei Chibisov will all have more opportunities to show what they can do if given a bigger role. If someone returns, it's no secret there will be players who see their roles diminished. But Maurice doesn't believe that's in the back of anyone's mind.

"I don't think that any of them look at that," Maurice said.

"I don't think they sit there and say 'Hey, this is great. I'm playing here right now but if one of these guys come back I'm gonna lose my job.' I think they have an opportunity to show what they can do, right? They get to play more and just have fun with it."

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice during the Jets NHL training camp in Winnipeg.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice during the Jets NHL training camp in Winnipeg.

Appleton split last season with the Jets and Moose. Regardless of what happens with Laine and Connor, the 23-year-old forward from Green Bay is one of the names expected to take on more this year. But his list of responsibilities will grow with the continued absence of Laine and Connor — and the opportunity isn't lost on him.

"You know, I've always been wanting to just kind of focus on my own game myself, but you can't ignore the opportunity that's there," said Appleton, who had three goals and seven assists in 36 games with the Jets last year. "I'm just doing my best to capitalize."

How quickly the three players would be worked back into the lineup upon their return remains unknown. Without seeing them prior to camp, the team has no idea what condition they're in until they arrive.

"I haven't even looked at it like that because we don't have control over a player over the summer," Maurice said. "That's kind of what training camp is. That's why we test them to get a feel for where they're at. And for returning players, we almost rate them against themselves, right? This guy's in a little better shape than he was last year, hey, this guy's fallen off a little bit we may have to look at that. I don't know what they're going to look like when they come back in and how their summers have been. We'll assess it right from there."

With an early exit in last year's playoffs and with all the questions surrounding the team, it's safe to say expectations for a Stanley Cup parade at Portage and Main next June have been tempered by many. But Maurice said he's happier with where the team's "hockey game" is right now compared to where it was at this point of last year's pre-season. He believes the focus has been really good since the opening day of camp.

"How it translates when we get to the regular season you don't know any year, but I'm happy with where we are today. I really am," said Maurice.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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