Folks can end their consternation: the Winnipeg Jets have signed Kyle Connor to a three-year entry-level contract worth an AAV of $1.775 million. With Winnipeg's season over and no games left to play, Connor's ELC won't kick in until 2016-17.
Excited to sign my first NHL contract. Looking forward to the next chapter of my hockey career #WinnipegJets pic.twitter.com/5IzEnI5mUw— Kyle Connor (@KyleConnor18) April 11, 2016
The 6'1", 175 lb freshman is coming off a remarkable season, leading both the University of Michigan and the NCAA with 71 points in 38 games. His closest competitor was fellow Michigan forward J.T. Compher, who posted 63 points in 38 games. Connor was also a 2016 Hobey Baker finalist, losing to Harvard's Jimmy Vesey in a result which came with some mixed reviews:
I think Jimmy Vesey is an exceptional player. Great competitor/captain. But, man, Kyle Connor had points in every game but three this year.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) April 8, 2016
I get strength of conference argument for Vesey but better be convinced Big 10 versus ECAC are 2 diff worlds. 25 pt difference w Connor.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) April 8, 2016
How Jimmy Vesey stole the Hobey https://t.co/ZJv7KyWHML pic.twitter.com/jbLkWwFUsj— Chris Dilks (@ChrisDilks) April 11, 2016
The move by Connor, at least in my opinion, isn't entirely unexpected. While Red Berenson may be returning for his 33rd season as Michigan head coach, the Wolverines experienced a very real talent drain over the last few weeks. With Tyler Motte, Zach Werenski, Justin Selman, Cristoval Nieves and Michael Downing all inked by NHL clubs, Connor faced the possibility of returning to a significantly weakened roster.
Instead, Connor joins a Winnipeg Jets squad rife with forward possibilities. To say there is an abundance of options would be putting it mildly: Drew Stafford, Alexander Burmistrov, Chris Thorburn, Brandon Tanev, Marko Dano, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Adam Lowry, Nic Petan, Anthony Peluso, J.C. Lipon, Brendan Lemieux, Chase De Leo, Scott Kosmachuk and Patrice Cormier. All of the above will look to fill spots in Winnipeg's lineup, and now add Kyle Connor to the list as well.
The question becomes what level of opportunity will Connor both earn and be afforded by the coaching staff? Might he slot into the top-six, pushing down a veteran such as Drew Stafford? How many minutes would he play if consigned to the bottom-six? To what degree is Nik(olaj) Ehlers' 72 game, 38 point, 16:06 ATOI season a measure of success for Connor? And is the AHL completely off the table, especially in the event he struggles at the NHL level?
Regardless of how the roster situation plays out, many Jets fans will be relieved to have one of their brightest stars under contract. And on that note, what are your feelings on inking Kyle Connor now, and what opportunity to succeed do you believe he'll have next season?
Share your thoughts, questions, concerns and unbridled joy in the comments below!