At a time where we can all use a little good news, Jets fans specifically got a big dose of it Tuesday with the signing of much-touted prospect Dylan Samberg.
Samberg made the fans sweat for this moment. Management wanted him in the fold much sooner than this. General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and owner Mark Chipman flew to visit Samberg and his family last summer in hopes of returning with his name on a contract.
Clearly that didn’t happen.
So Samberg returned to the University of Minnesota-Duluth — where he had already won two national championships — for a third season. Fans were assured he remained committed to Winnipeg, but it left a lingering doubt about his future with the Jets. Had Samberg waited one more year he would have become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with an NHL team of his choosing. He admits he pondered the temptation.
“You think about that stuff,” he said to reporters in his post-signing press conference.
Instead Samberg opted to head north where there’s a clear path to a long-term spot on the Jets’ back end.
“I know there’s a lot of opportunity up there which I’m really excited for,” said Samberg. “I felt like this is what I wanted to do.”
Opportunity clearly plays a major role in Samberg’s decision. Cheveldayoff says the 21-year-old will be in competition for a spot on the team come training camp, whenever that may be. That’s no surprise, considering Samberg represents exactly what the Jets need on the back end: A defenceman with size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and a heavy shot.
Samberg should complement the likes of Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk, smaller players who achieve their results with razor sharp fundamentals rather than force. Having a little beef on the back end doesn’t hurt.
Not to over blow it, but this was a huge signing for the Jets. Had Samberg returned to college and entered free agency next season it would have been a blow to an organization that’s always placed the draft and develop model at the core of its philosophy. It would have trotted out the old cliche that Winnipeg is a place NHLers don’t want to be.
There are varying level of truths to that cliche, but when it comes to enticing players, Winnipeg’s sales pitch is simply this: the Jets are a very well-built team with the potential to do something special.
On this day, that was good enough.