It took the Winnipeg Jets some time, but on Aug. 19 the hockey club finally announced the signing of restricted free-agent defenceman Logan Stanley to a one-year deal for US$1 million for the coming season.
That leaves restricted free-agent rearguard Declan Chisholm as the team’s only un-signed player for the 2023-24 season.
In an interview Tuesday with Winnipeg radio station CJOB, Stanley said that he and his agent chose not to exercise his arbitration rights after receiving a qualifying offer from Winnipeg on June 30 as such a move did make a lot of sense.
“I didn’t play much last year, and the injuries and what not,” Stanley said. “I just didn’t think it made a lot of sense. I played 19 games last year with the injuries, so I didn’t think we needed to go through it, and it worked out all right for both of us.”
It has been tough sledding for Stanley to remain healthy, and stay in the top six of the Jets defensive rotation after playing in 37 of the 56 games during the pandemic shortened schedule in 2021.
The 25-year-old blueliner only dressed for 58 of 82 games the following season. And back-to-back ankle injuries this past season took a toll on him both physically and mentally.
“I missed, I think, eight weeks when I broke my ankle there at the start of the year,” Stanley said, referring to damage done by blocking a shot in a 4-0 win over St. Louis at Canada Life Centre on Oct. 24. “Mentally, you just work so hard all summer to get into shape and get your body feeling good and then — boom — you’re out again.”
Stanley returned to the lineup for a 5-2 win in St. Louis on Dec. 8, but suffered another ankle injury in the next night’s 3-1 win over Chicago when he went into the end boards awkwardly on just his fifth shift of the game. ” I worked hard and came back, and then to get hurt again in a fluky situation — and miss another eight or nine weeks — it’s just mentally draining as much as it is physically,” admitted the six-foot seven-inch, left-shot defenceman.
Besides spending too much time for his liking on the trainer’s table, several developments have factored into the challenges Stanley has faced in gaining traction as a regular on the Winnipeg blue line. They include the addition of veterans Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, the emergence of Dylan Samberg, and inconsistent play on his own part. According to a St. Louis-based reporting on social media, the Jets 2016 first-round draft even requested a trade prior to the March 3 deadline.
“It was nothing against the organization, the city of Winnipeg or my teammates,” Stanley said. “I’m very happy being in Winnipeg and I’d love to play there for my whole career… The team that drafted me, I’ve built some great relationships there. It wasn’t anything about that, it was more just the opportunity to play in some games. At the end of the day, you have to worry about your own career, too.”
Stanley said he is also very clear on the fact he needs to earn playing time on a still-crowded blue line. “Play well in those preseason games to start the year and hopefully get into the six-man roster to start the season and just go from there in trying to build a good foundation,” Stanley said. “You know, get some trust back with the coaches. I know I’m a capable NHL defenceman, and last year was unfortunate with the back to back ankle injuries. I’ve worked hard this summer to get into shape and get my body back to feeling good, so I’m definitely looking forward to training camp, for sure.”
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