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Laine, Connor, Jets to feel more pressure regarding contracts, coach says

Maurice expects urgency to mount with restricted free agent forwards as season nears

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and the Winnipeg Jets figure to soon feel a heightened sense of urgency with each restricted free agent forward unsigned and the season approaching, coach Paul Maurice said.

"The pressure on both sides kind of comes at the same time, that the closer you get to the season, the more pressure comes on the team and the player to get a contract signed," coach Paul Maurice told NHL.com in a recent interview. "We'll see that mount and we're hopeful (they'll be signed) by the time the puck drops. You want everybody at camp, absolutely, but you really hope everybody's done by the time the season starts."

Winnipeg begins training camp Sept. 13 and opens its regular season at the New York Rangers on Oct. 3.

Laine had 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games last season, the fewest goals, assists and points in his three NHL seasons. But his 110 goals since 2016-17 are the sixth-most in the League; the 21-year-old trails Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (133), Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (120), Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (112), John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs (112) and Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs (111).

Video: What Patrik Laine needs to do to get back on track

Connor had an NHL career-high 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games last season and has 123 points (65 goals, 58 assists) in the past two seasons. The 22-year-old was second in goals on the Jets last season behind Mark Scheifele (38).

Laine and Connor are among the prominent unsigned restricted free agents. They include forwards Mitchell Marner of the Maple Leafs, Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Brayden Point of the Lightning, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, and defensemen Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"The view from the outside might be that there's something wrong because none of these guys are signed," Maurice said. "The truth of the matter is that it must be completely normal because none of these guys are signed.

"When you look at the block of players, not just our two ... that are all in the same boat, you would say we're no more worried than anybody else in this position. If yours were the last two guys who weren't signed, you'd be concerned because there would at least be contracts out there that would tell you where the lamp post is. Everybody wants these contracts done but we all knew this was going to be late, that it wasn't going to happen early because they're almost moving en masse. I think once one or two go, they'll all line up."

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

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was in a similar position last offseason. He was a restricted free agent and signed a two-year, $6.3 million contract Sept. 16, two days after the start of training camp.

"It seems to be the general trend lately where a lot of guys in the RFA position are lasting a little bit longer into summer," the 24-year-old said last week. "When you don't have arbitration rights coming out of (an) entry-level (contract), there really isn't a (deadline) date. The date, I guess, is around the start of camp or the season, choose which one it will be.

"I've spoken to both [Patrik and Kyle], not really about contract things, but they have to do what they have to do. I went through it last summer, and it's really just part of the business. Everyone knows they're not the only two. There are many guys around the League in this situation. It's part of the way it goes."

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