The Winnipeg Jets and the National Hockey League may be in a holding pattern because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that is not stopping general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff from attending to some important business.
A pressing item was checked off the to-do list with the signing of University of Minnesota-Duluth defenceman Dylan Samberg to a three-year entry-level contract.
Samberg was hoping to get into an NHL game this season after completing his junior season, but the pandemic dashed any hopes of getting into the Jets’ lineup.
“After this virus happened, that kinda put that aside,” Samberg said in a video conference call. “We were kinda waiting – my family and I. We were talking. We were kinda saying how there’s no need to rush or anything. And eventually came to a deal that we liked. And yeah, jumped on it.”
The deal has an average annual value of $1.175 million and kicks in for the start of the 2020-21 season.
“He’s a guy that knows how to win,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “He’s been part of organizations that have won. He’s developed a tremendous amount physically over the course of time since we drafted him. And obviously, he’s developed mentally as well. He’s the type of player that is certainly ready to turn pro.
“We’ve obviously scouted him extensively. We’re very excited. We’re very high on him for many years since we drafted him. He’s gone and turned into a really good college player, a real steady player.”
Samberg was a second-round pick of the Jets in the 2017 NHL entry draft. The six-foot-four, 215-pound left-shot blueliner from Hermantown, Minn., had one goal and 20 assists for 21 points in 28 games during his junior season with the Bulldogs.
Samberg could have returned for a fourth season at UMD but in the end made the decision to turn pro.
“I felt like this was a good time for me,” Samberg said. “And I was ready for it. Obviously I’m going to miss UMD cause it was the college that I dreamed of going to. You got to move on with life, and hopefully this can all work out for me.”
The Jets general manager said they even tried to convince Samberg to sign with them last summer.
“We made a real strong pitch to try to convince him to turn pro during the summer time,” Cheveldayoff said. “Mark Chipman and myself actually made a trip into Duluth and met with him and his family and his adviser at the time, and talked about the benefits of turning pro this past season here. But certainly at all the times, like we are with all the different college players – totally understand that it’s their decision.”
UMD was gunning for a third consecutive national title when the NCAA post-season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was very tough,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie on that one. It was a weird day. I remember getting off the ice after practice and our coaches came in and told us the news that our season had ended. And we were just all in disbelief. It was tough cause it was a big reason why I came back and kinda feel like it gotten taken away from me.”
Samberg also played for Team USA in the 2018 and 2019 world junior tournaments, helping his country capture bronze and silver medals, respectively, in those events.