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Training Camp

Laine, Connor miss first day of Jets training camp

Restricted free agent forwards remain unsigned

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor remain unsigned restricted free agents and missed the first day of Winnipeg Jets training camp Friday.

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said it's hard to put a time frame on when the forwards will be signed, but forward Blake Wheeler said he's hoping for a fast resolution.

"Clearly, we're a better hockey team with those guys in our lineup and, once again, as friends of theirs and (a) teammate, you support them and you want them to capitalize on their value and come into camp excited about being here," Wheeler said. "But the rest of it is out of our control and, to a large degree, is out of their control. It's going to get dealt with and figured out and when it does, we're going to give them a big, old hug and get them in the group and get them up to speed."

 

[RELATED: Byfuglien granted leave, to be absent for start of Jets camp]

 

Laine had 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games last season. The 21-year-old has scored 110 goals in his first three NHL seasons, sixth most in that span.

Connor had 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games last season. The 22-year-old had 123 points (65 goals, 58 assists) in 158 games the past two seasons.

Laine and Connor are two of several high-profile restricted free agents who are unsigned and not at training camp. That group includes forwards Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins.

Video: Patrik Laine comes in at No. 19 on the list

"We'd certainly like everything done and ready to go," Cheveldayoff said. "I think that's obviously what everyone's intentions are. If we were the only team in this situation, you might be sitting there wondering what's going on. Doesn't make it right, doesn't make it wrong. It's a time where you want everybody in and working towards things and getting opportunities for the coaches to be able to look at different things."

Coach Paul Maurice said defenseman Josh Morrissey is an example of how fast things can change when it comes to a player signing a contract. Morrissey missed the first two days of camp last season as a restricted free agent but agreed to a two-year, $6.3 million contract the next day. (Morrissey agreed to an eight-year, $50 million contract extension Thursday that begins in the 2020-21 season.)

The absences of Laine and Connor are one reason there is a different look for the Jets in training camp. Winnipeg announced Friday that defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was granted a leave of absence for personal reasons.

The Jets already had questions at defenseman after Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers on June 17 for defenseman Neal Pionk and the No. 20 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, used to select defenseman Ville Heinola; Tyler Myers signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1; and Ben Chiarot signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Montreal Canadiens on July 4.

Maurice said he prefers to be an optimist at the start of camp.

"You deal with it like injuries," he said. "We may hit opening night and not have any of these problems, have all three guys (Laine, Connor, Byfuglien) back in the lineup. For sure, we're going to be a different-looking hockey team this year."

Video: WPG@STL, Gm4: Connor wins it in OT for Jets

Maurice said he visited Laine in the offseason and was encouraged by the meeting.

"The main gist of the conversation was development, and I felt in his game in the last six weeks (last season), he took some really good strides to becoming what I think can become an elite power forward, something beyond the shot," Maurice said. " … We really want that to be his starting point this year."

Two things that were not discussed during the visit were Laine's contract and whether he wanted to remain in Winnipeg, Maurice said.

"Never, ever have I ever talked money with a player, or contract status," he said. "Anytime that I meet with a guy or talk to a guy on the phone that's in that situation, that's the first line out of my mouth. I stay out of that because I have no control over it.

"We talked hockey and then we talked life and got to know him a little bit better and what he does away from the rink, what he has fun with. It never, ever came up that he didn't enjoy being in Winnipeg or playing here."

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