Slowly but surely, the Winnipeg Jets are working their way through their long list of restricted free agents.
On Tuesday, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff eliminated one of his potential arbitration hearings by signing winger Eric Tangradi and later inked forward Patrice Cormier to a one-year deal.
Tangradi, 24, was eager to return to the Jets after joining them in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for what turned into a sixth round pick in 2013.
What was interesting was that he earned a one-way contract worth $1.35 million over two seasons ($650,000 this year and $700,00 in 2014-15).
That’s a real commitment from the Jets and that wasn’t lost on Tangradi when I caught up with him this afternoon.
“It’s great. Since the season ended last year, the first thing I was looking forward to doing was jumping back on board with Winnipeg,” said Tangradi, who had one goal and four points in 36 games with the Jets last season. “To get two years and see the faith the organization has in me, I’m definitely looking forward to having a good start this season.”
There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to the Jets’ depth chart but as of right now, it appears Tangradi will battle with newcomer Matt Halischuk and returnee James Wright for ice time on the third unit with Olli Jokinen and Michael Frolik.
Tangradi didn’t want to weigh in on where he could fit in, saying that he was simply going to focus on playing his physical style while chipping in a bit more offence, now that his confidence is on the rise, due to the first one-way contract of his career.
“To get that one-way contract for two years, it will help motivate me even more now,” said Tangradi. “It’s very exciting and it helps you keep that confidence going into camp and just focusing on playing your game. I’m not going to change much. I’m going to be physical. With that confidence, I think you’ll see a few more go in the back of the net for me.”
Tangradi is excited about the Jets’ move to the Western Conference, where he should be able to utilize his strengths.
“I’m super excited for the West. It’s a bigger, more physical style and that’s what I really enjoy,” said Tangradi. “I’m looking forward to the grind and the battles with some of those big, strong teams. I’m looking forward to getting physical. I think the Western Conference is something that will suit our team and it’s definitely a challenge that I’m personally looking forward to as well.”
What does Tangradi think about the new additions, Frolik and Devin Setoguchi?
“You’ve seen a lot of guys with grit and skill coming in and then some grit coming in, and there’s some youth as well,” said Tangradi. “We’re going to have a lot of exciting things this coming September. We’re going to have to have a great training camp and get out of the gate pretty good. We’ve got to get in there and be ready to work.”
Outside of hockey, Tangradi said one of his highlights from the off-season was attending the U.S. Open golf tournament near his hometown, which turned out to be the most enjoyable live sporting event he’s ever attended.
Cormier was expected to push for a roster spot with the Jets last season, but after suffering an injury with the St. John’s IceCaps, he was unable to participate in the condensed training camp and limited to only 10 games with the Jets (no points) last season.
Cormier, 23, can be used as either a centre or on the wing and his physical presence could also be beneficial as the Jets move to the Western Conference this season.
It will be interesting to see if this is the year that Cormier finally breaks through as a regular, as there is plenty of competition brewing for spots on the fourth line with centre Jim Slater.
In case you missed it earlier, here are the dates for arbitration hearings for the four remaining Jets’ RFAs who haven’t signed yet:
July 24 – C Bryan Little
July 29 – RW Blake Wheeler
July 30 – D Paul Postma
Aug. 2 – D Zach Bogosian
Not going to read too much into the dates and it’s my belief that the Jets get all four contracts done before the arbitration hearings take place, but you never know.