October 20, 2019

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Morrissey the toast of the town

Jets defenceman makes long-term commitment to team, city

Opinion

So, Josh Morrissey, you've just become a US$50-million man, the ink barely dry on your shiny new contract. All of your teammates are in town, with training camp set to begin Friday. You know you're going to have pay up, likely in the form of a very fancy, very expensive dinner, right?

“I’m guessing there will be something along those lines. Maybe I'll try to slip out the back door," Morrissey told me with a chuckle on Thursday.

In reality, perhaps it should be the entire Jets organization, fans of the team and civic boosters chipping in to ensure Morrissey never has to pay for another meal again around these parts, even if there's no doubt he can now handle the tab. Because his decision to sign an eight-year extension is truly a big deal, in more ways than one. Not only did Morrissey manage to take care of his own long-term interests, he also did everyone a solid in the process. On several fronts.

So, Josh Morrissey, you've just become a US$50-million man, the ink barely dry on your shiny new contract. All of your teammates are in town, with training camp set to begin Friday. You know you're going to have pay up, likely in the form of a very fancy, very expensive dinner, right?

"I’m guessing there will be something along those lines. Maybe I'll try to slip out the back door," Morrissey told me with a chuckle on Thursday.

In reality, perhaps it should be the entire Jets organization, fans of the team and civic boosters chipping in to ensure Morrissey never has to pay for another meal again around these parts, even if there's no doubt he can now handle the tab. Because his decision to sign an eight-year extension is truly a big deal, in more ways than one. Not only did Morrissey manage to take care of his own long-term interests, he also did everyone a solid in the process. On several fronts.

Winnipeg Jets' Josh Morrissey signed an eight-year, $50-million contract extension Thursday, one day before the start of training camp.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets' Josh Morrissey signed an eight-year, $50-million contract extension Thursday, one day before the start of training camp.

Yes, he's being extremely well-compensated, as professional athletes usually are. But I suspect Morrissey ended up leaving significant money on the table in this case, which will allow Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his crew some future breathing room as they continue to try and construct a Stanley Cup contender while juggling salary cap constraints.

It's also worth noting he accepted a two-year bridge deal last summer at a lower term, knowing it would help the franchise out financially at the time.

Look at the going rates for top-pairing defencemen these days. Morrissey's longtime partner in crime, Jacob Trouba, is going to make US$8 million a season with the New York Rangers, and you won't convince me he's worth 25 per cent more per season than Morrissey is.

Josh Morrissey's former defence partner Jacob Trouba, left, signed an $8M-a-year deal with his new team, the New York Rangers.

TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Josh Morrissey's former defence partner Jacob Trouba, left, signed an $8M-a-year deal with his new team, the New York Rangers.

In that sense, this is a very team-friendly contract, not unlike the one No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele signed a few years ago. And the reality is, in a salary-cap world, you need a few of these on your roster to have a fighting chance. The Jets now have those, along with a few others who potentially offer great value such as Nikolaj Ehlers and Connor Hellebuyck.

On another front, Morrissey is also sending a message to the rest of the league that Winnipeg is a pretty good place to call home. Let's face it, he didn't choose to come here. He had absolutely no control over which NHL city was going to land him in the 2013 NHL draft, as the Jets ultimately did with the 13th-overall pick.

But Morrissey certainly had plenty of say over his long-term future as the kind of elite player every coach and general manager would love to have on their club. And the Calgary native has decided to further plant his roots here in River City.

"Obviously, that can be interpreted as anyone would like it to be, but I’m really excited about our young group of players here and for me, it’s a great fit on the ice, it’s a great fit off the ice as well though." – Josh Morrissey

Winnipeg often gets mocked by outsiders, not to mention those of us who have spent our entire lives here and have no shortage of things to complain about. It's not exactly a desirable place for free agents, with the Jets often being a team that shows up on "no-trade" lists.

And yet, those who do find their way here often end up falling in love with the place. Winnipeg's track record of retaining the young core of drafted and developed players is certainly impressive, with Morrissey being the latest addition.

"Obviously, that can be interpreted as anyone would like it to be, but I’m really excited about our young group of players here and for me, it’s a great fit on the ice, it’s a great fit off the ice as well though," Morrissey said.

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, left, and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien are the only two players currently on the Jets roster with a higher AAV than what Morrissey's new deal will pay him.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, left, and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien are the only two players currently on the Jets roster with a higher AAV than what Morrissey's new deal will pay him.

Captain Blake Wheeler (US$8.25 million) and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (US$7.6 million) are the only Jets who will have a bigger ticket once Morrissey's deal kicks in, although that is expected to change once current restricted free agents Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor sign new deals in the coming days, or weeks.

Morrissey will make just slightly more than a number of other core players who have also signed lengthy extensions in recent years, including Hellebuyck (US$6.166 million), Scheifele (US$6.125 million), Ehlers (US$6 million) and veteran forward Bryan Little (US$5.291 million).

Laine, Connor, Scheifele and Ehlers were first-round draft picks, like Morrissey, while Hellebuyck was a fifth-round selection.

"For me, it was just a perfect fit in all areas and I’m excited to be part of the core going forward. With our group, if you talk to the other guys, they’re excited about the opportunity to grow and the opportunity to grow with our leadership group and our core of young players. That’s what I’m most looking forward to," said Morrissey.

I'm on the record as saying the Jets should put a letter on Morrissey's sweater and formally get him into the leadership group sooner rather than later. He has all the qualities you'd want, both on and off the ice, which was reflected Thursday in everything Morrissey said and did.

The Jets should put a letter on Morrissey's sweater and formally get him into the leadership group sooner rather than later. He has all the qualities you'd want, both on and off the ice, which was reflected Thursday in everything Morrissey said and did.

To hear Cheveldayoff talk, it's likely only a matter of time before it happens.

Morrissey has always maintained this city, and the Jets, are a perfect fit, with no burning desire to see what else might be out there for him in the hockey world. By putting pen to paper, he's ensured there will be no future bidding war for his services, nor any kind of prolonged contract drama the likes of which we've seen play out around these parts.

In fact, next summer might be downright dull around here, with Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton and Sami Niku the only notable RFAs. But with no arbitration rights or enormous paydays in their immediate futures, it should be pretty quiet on the home front compared to the last couple off-seasons.

Morrissey has always maintained this city, and the Jets, are a perfect fit for him.

JEFF ROBERSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Morrissey has always maintained this city, and the Jets, are a perfect fit for him.

Finally, Morrissey's signing provides the kind of good-news boost the Jets could probably use going into a training camp where the biggest storylines surrounded who wasn't going to be here, namely Laine and Connor, and what it might mean for a team where expectations have already been lowered significantly, at least from the outside.

"Hopefully that’s a positive thing, but on an individual level, I’m really excited to have this opportunity to be here and to be a Winnipeg Jet going forward. At the same time, focus on winning. That’s what I’m most excited about," said Morrissey.

"From talking to the guys in the room, everyone has come from that mindset. We’re excited about this year, we’re excited to show what we can do as a team and try to build with our young group that is still one of the youngest in the league."

I suspect we have yet to see Morrissey hit his ceiling, and there's no risk this is a player who's simply going to become content with his contract and go through the motions. With one full year with the Manitoba Moose and now three years with the Jets under his belt, Morrissey's development is still ongoing. Cheveldayoff said Thursday the "sky can be the limit."

"I definitely have lofty goals for myself and my career. One of the things that really excites me about having the stability with this deal is that I can go out there now and play and realistically just worry about playing hockey and trying to see where I can take my game to as an individual and as a team and where we can go to. I have lofty goals for myself and I’m excited to just sort of have the ability to go and focus on becoming the best player I can be," said Morrissey.

All of which makes this exceptional young hockey player — and great young man — the toast of the town right now.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

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.

Read full biography

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