THE Winnipeg Jets and forward Jack Roslovic have entered into the phase of their relationship that can only be described as complicated. Not to mention long-distance. Whether it ultimately ends in a divorce is one of the big questions swirling around the hockey club as training camp for a new season is set to begin.
Roslovic will be conspicuous by his absence when camp begins Sunday. His agent, Claude Lemieux, told the Free Press on Tuesday that Roslovic is back home in Columbus, Ohio, waiting for word on his future.
The 23-year-old first-round draft pick is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract and a career-best 12 goals and 17 assists in 71 games last season, primarily as a bottom-six winger with limited power-play time.
He declined the qualifying offer made by the Jets last fall, and talks towards a new deal have not been fruitful. That’s largely because of an obvious difference of opinion when it comes to Roslovic’s role and ultimate value.
Roslovic sees himself as a natural centre who should be playing on one of the top two forward lines. But the Jets currently have those spots pencilled in for Mark Scheifele and Paul Stastny up the middle, and Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers on the wings.
Roslovic has largely been used in a more defensive role with the likes of Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp, and even Jansen Harkins and Mason Appleton at one point last season.
Roslovic has made no secret about wanting a change of scenery, and the Jets have explored trade possibilities this off-season, particularly in an attempt to boost their blue line. So far, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn’t made a move.
Laine and Connor were no-shows when camp began last season, waiting on new deals as restricted free agents. Same with defenceman Josh Morrissey prior to the 2018-19 season. All were quickly signed.
But this situation is muddied by ongoing travel restrictions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a shorter training camp schedule leading up to the Jan. 13 start to the regular season. Because Roslovic is still in Ohio, he will be required to serve a modified seven-day quarantine if/when he comes back to Winnipeg. That would be followed by a second phase in which he could leave his home to go to the rink, but nowhere else, for the next seven days.
The only way Roslovic could participate in the start of a training camp is if he were to be traded to an American team prior to Sunday. Each day that passes without any progress brings him closer to being on the outside looking in when the puck drops for real.
There was some thought that Roslovic might have difficulty getting into Canada without a contract, based on issues surrounding work visas. But Cheveldayoff said that isn’t the case.
"Players can cross the border if they have been invited to training camp," said Cheveldayoff.
"Technically he doesn’t have a contract but if it were a situation where he wanted to come, I guess there’s different ways to look at it but it’s not something that’s been explored yet. But he would be obviously subject to a quarantine. Everybody, not just Jack, everybody whether we bring in somebody on a PTO (professional tryout offer) right now or whether we bring someone outside of Winnipeg into our situation, they’re all going to involve a quarantine."
The fact Roslovic has chosen to stay put suggests re-signing with Winnipeg isn’t imminent. Otherwise, he likely would have headed north already to save himself the hassle a late start is going to cause.
Cheveldayoff was asked why talks with Roslovic’s camp haven’t progressed.
"We made our qualifying offers back when everyone made their qualifying offers. And as far as the cadence of a conversation or the contents of a meeting, I’ve always had the belief and the way I’ve conducted business (is) that that’s been kept private," he said.
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.