The Winnipeg Jets went into the opening day of NHL Free Agency with Eric Comrie as their backup netminder. They emerged with former long-time Calgary Flame and more recently Nashville Predator, David Rittich, occupying that position.
Rittich agreed to a one-year deal worth $US 900K and brings 151 games of NHL experience to Winnipeg. Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff acknowledged the 29 year old Czech born puck stopper struggled this past season in Nashville, going 6-3-4 with a 3.57 GAA and .886 SP in 17 appearances for the Predators as a backup to Juuse Saros.
“I think (he’s) a veteran backup netminder that had some experience in a bigger role, but is hungry to push and to prove,” Cheveldayoff told reporters at Canada Life Centre. “But he also understands that he’s there to support as well.” From 2018-20 the 6-3, 206-pound Rittich won 51 of the 93 games he played for Calgary, while also recording three shutouts.
The vacancy was created when Comrie signed a two-year deal with an average annual value of $US 1.8M to become a Buffalo Sabre. The personable 27-year-old goaltender played in just 19 games, starting just 16 and went 10-5-1 with a 2.58 goals against average, 920 saves percentage and 1 shutout.
His departure left the Jets with Mikhail Berdin, Arvid Holm, and Oskari Salminen on the organizational depth chart, and none of those three netminders having any NHL experience.
Comrie escalated from restricted to unrestricted free agent status because of decisions made last season that resulted in him coming up 90 minutes shy of remaining in team control. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters that Comrie’s free agent status was likely a moot point in the final analysis.
“So if we retained him as an RFA I don’t know that we would have been able to (remit a qualifying offer) to him because his arbitration case probably would be a little too rich for what we would have been able to spend.”
With the addition of Rittich, and including injured forward Cole Perfetti, the Jets have 17 players under contract for the coming season and just over $US 15M of salary cap space remaining. It’s expected at least half of that total will need to go towards qualifying offers to the restricted free agent forward trio of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mason Appleton, and Jansen Harkins.
Cheveldayoff indicated he may have a few more opportunities to delve into. “I don’t know if something is going to happen or not happen here as the day goes on. We’ll see how some of those things play out.”
The Jets also announced the signing of former Columbus Blue Jackets Centre Kevin Stenlund to a one year-two way contract with an average annual value in the NHL of $US 750K. The 25 year old 6-4, 211 pound native of Stockholm, Sweden played in three games for Columbus during the 2021-22 season while adding 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 42 games with the Blue Jackets AHL Affiliate in Cleveland. Stenlund has 11-9-20 in 71 career NHL games, all with Columbus.
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