After having a great pre-season according to people who were able to watch him, Paul Maurice has said that it is likely that Ville Heinola will start the regular season with the Winnipeg Jets. Here are the key parts of this decision:
#NHLJets coach Paul Maurice just told reporters in Minnesota that 18-year-old defenceman Ville Heinola is likely going to play regular-season games this season. How many is the question.— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) September 29, 2019
- There are two key times in this decision. The first is the nine-game cut off which is a year on his entry-level contract (ELC). If the ten game marker gets surpassed then that is one year less on his ELC even if he does not finish the season with the Jets. However, the Jets have until he plays in game 41 of the regular season to burn a year towards free agency. If Heinola plays nine games, then nothing changes. If he plays in nine games again next year, nothing changes with his contract. It is important to note that all these numbers are games played by the player and not games played by the team.
- This decision is probably partially because of Dustin Byfuglien being away from the team. Let’s face it, the Jets have a pretty questionable defence with Byfuglien and without him it is Josh Morrissey and a bunch of players playing above their place. Heinola is one of the better players on the Jets defence and keeping him with the Jets right now is what is best for the team.
- Teenage defencemen are not the rarity they once were. Due to the salary cap, teams sometimes go young because they need to as their older players have become too expensive for them to keep. Add to that the fact that Heinola played 34 games against men last year in Finland and it makes sense that he is given this opportunity. If the Jets decide he needs more time, it is back to Lukko in the Liiga (top league in Finland) for the rest of the season.
- He can still go to the Men’s World Junior Championship (MWJC) and remain in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens did this a couple of years ago with Victor Mete. He needed some confidence, so they sent him to the MWJC and then recalled him. He was great for the rest of the season and the Habs were able to keep him with the team unlike if they had sent him back to the London Knights. The Jets could do the same with Heinola if they see fit.
Remember: ten games and 42 games are the key numbers for contract (ten) and free agency (42). Byfuglien coming back could change the Jets needs. If he does not stick, he will go back to Finland.