Former Sharks forward and Twitter meme superstar Kyle Wellwood has signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets. According to RDS reporter Renaud P Lavoie, the deal is worth $700,000 for next season. The former 5th round pick split time between Atlant in the KHL and San Jose Sharks last season. In 35 NHL games last season, Wellwood put up 5 goals and 13 points. He racked up an additional 7 points in 18 playoff games to finish the season.
Wellwood’s signing was one of the more confusing deals of the offseason. After looking for a contract for over two months, there were initial reports that he had re-signed with the San Jose Sharks—only to be quickly corrected. It didn’t take long for hockey fans around the Twitterverse to start recycling the #KyleWellwoodIsSoFat jokes—even if he’s only 180 lbs these days. For the real jokes, look no further than Wellwood’s new teammate Big Dustin Byfuglien. Oh, I’m sure hockey fans will have fun with the Jets this season.
The news of Wellwood’s signing, of course, comes a day after Yaroslavl’s horrific flight tragedy in Russia. For a player who played in the KHL last season, one has to wonder if the flight and conditions in the KHL had anything to do with his quick contract a day later. His $700,000 contract represents a slight raise from the $650,000 two-way deal he signed with the Sharks in the middle of last season.
If Wellwood can come into training camp in shape, he still has the potential to be a productive NHL player. He’s scored double-digit goals in four of his five full seasons in the NHL. In fact, the only year he was unable to score at least 11 goals was in 2007-08 when he only played 59 games with the Maple Leafs. Still, in 2006-07, he was able to put up 42 points in 48 games. People forget that there was a fair amount of expectation swirling around the Windsor native, as he prepared for the 2007 season.
He’s been struggling to fulfill those expectations ever since.
When at his best, Wellwood is a player with very good speed and above-average hands. If his well-documented weight problems are behind him, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Winnipeg Jets. Over his last two NHL seasons with the Canucks and Sharks, Wellwood has shown that he has improved his two-way game immeasurably since his early days with the Maple Leafs. Using his speed, he could fill a valuable depth role for the Jets as they fill out their team (no put intended) and look for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007.
The Jets are depending on a few young players to continue their development this season. Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, and Patrice Cormier will all have to take significant steps forward for the Jets to threaten for a playoff spot this season. They’ll also need Bryan Little and Nik Antropov to bounce back this season, Andrew Ladd to replicate last year’s success, and Eric Fehr to hit the ground running with his new team.
Kyle Wellwood should fit right in with a team that has so many question marks. If he can rediscover the potential that he showed early in his career, he’ll provide some much needed depth as the Jets look to impress their new fanbase. That’s a huge “if.” If not, fans will always have the fat jokes to fall back on.