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Contract talks to new positions: everything that happened on the first day of Jets training camp

Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck have become stars wearing the Winnipeg Jets logo but there is a chance this could be their last year flying in Manitoba's capital.

The pair started off the first day of training camp being asked about their future contracts, as both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. While both remained mum on any specific details, neither is closing the book on a return to the Jets.

"I got an open mind, that's about as clear as I could be," said Hellebuyck. "I'm not closing the door anywhere. I'm going to look anywhere that I think can win a (Stanley) Cup and I know this locker room can win a cup. That's my main goal and my main focus."

For Scheifele, it's all about the product on the ice rather than any contract talks.

"I'm a hockey player, I love the game and love to skate. I love to get ready and then improve on my game," said Scheifele. "Honestly, it's not really on my mind, not really. I have one year left on my deal and I'm here to focus on this team and helping this team succeed."

Scheifele was the Jets' first-ever draft pick in 2011 after the team relocated from Atlanta, while Hellebuyck was taken the next year in the fifth round, 130th overall.

They've each been able to shine while calling Winnipeg home. Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy in 2020 and Scheifele set a new career record in goals with 42 last season.


There are some new faces starting in this year's camp and there are some faces that are gone and moved on to other teams. Both Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois started the next chapters of their career after spending time in Winnipeg.

Wheeler is now with the New York Rangers and Dubois is with the L.A. Kings after being traded in the off-season.

Coming back in the Dubois deal were Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafollo and Rasmus Kupari.

Vilardi was slotted in next to Scheifele on day one, a position the Jets' veteran was happy to see.

"It's exciting. He's a great kid, loves the game, loves to talk the game. He's definitely got some jam to him and he's got a knack for scoring."

The new look team is creating some confidence for the team's star goalie.

"We have a good team and I do believe that. I see a lot of guys and see a lot of improvement. I see just a lot of eagerness in this room to improve as a group and really give our all. So I want to be part of that," said Hellebuyck.

Some of that improvement could come in the form of Cole Perfetti. The 21-year-old first-round pick in 2020 is coming off a 30-point season last year in 51 games, but his season was cut short due to injury.

This year he is being slotted to play a centre, a position he played in his junior career.

"I'm really excited, it's obviously a big role and a huge part of this team. So it's not going to be easy, but it's going to be exciting," said Perfetti.

"One thing that I really enjoy about playing centre, and it kind of helps my game, is being able to have both sides of the ice open…When you get the puck through the middle of the ice, you have the left side, you've got the right side, you can come up the middle. Your options are way more now and you're able to see the ice a lot more."

Head Coach Rick Bowness said Perfetti having success at centre ice will play into the plan they have for this year in terms of controlling the slot.

"We're going to give him every opportunity in this training camp to play as much centre and power play as we can," said Bowness.

He noted the switch to the centre of the ice may also help keep him away from some injuries.

"It gets him off the boards and gives him a little bit more freedom in the open ice. With his hockey IQ, he'll see the open ice and hopefully avoid putting himself in those positions where he's getting crunched at the wrong time."

Perfetti also knows there may be more ice time available with some of the key players from last year now being on other teams, so he made sure to put in the work to be ready for this season.

"I felt like I had a really strong summer in the gym and on the ice with my skating coach. I feel faster, I feel stronger," said Perfetti.


The first day of training camp wasn't a long one for Nikolaj Ehlers, as Bowness said he left with a neck spasm.

"Actually, it started last night. So he tried to get through practice. Obviously, it didn't work. We're going to keep him off the ice tomorrow and hopefully, he'll be back on Saturday," said Bowness.

It was also a big day for the Jets 2023 first-round pick Colby Barlow. The 18th overall pick participated in his first professional training camp and then inked a three-year entry-level deal with the team.

While with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack last year, Barlow had 46 goals and 33 assists in 59 games.

"Everybody I've talked to in our organization and other organizations speaks very highly of his character, that he's a great teammate, he's a great kid, he's a hard-working two-way player. So I've never heard a negative word on this kid," said Bowness. Top Stories

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