In surprising news, the Winnipeg Jets have sent Mark Scheifele — their first-round pick, 7th overall at the 2011 Draft — back to his junior club in OHL Barrie.
It’s a newsworthy development on a number of fronts.
One, Scheifele made the Jets out of training camp and has been with the club for three weeks. While he’s only played in four games this year and therefore still eligible to be returned to junior, most NHL clubs made the decision to reassign their prospects a while ago (see here and here and here).
Two, it makes you wonder what Winnipeg was waiting for.
Scheifele had been a healthy scratch on a number of occasions and wasn’t a major factor in the games he did play in, going scoreless in four contests while averaging just over 11 minutes a night.
But in his last game — Friday’s 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay — Scheifele played a career-high 16:47 and managed to finish with an even rating despite the fact Winnipeg allowed five even-strength goals (Blake Wheeler finished minus-3 and played less than Scheifele.)
This marks the second time in as many seasons that the Jets have re-assigned Scheifele to junior.
In 2011-12, he appeared in seven games with the club before being sent back to Barrie, but was later called up to the AHL playoffs with the St. John’s IceCaps, playing in 10 games while notching one assist.
It’s decision time for the junior-eligible players getting work in the NHL and two of them are headed back to the CHL today.
The Philadelphia Flyers announced that forward Scott Laughton is headed back to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals after playing in all five of the team’s games. Had he played against Tampa Bay tonight he would’ve played the full season in Philadelphia and burned the first year of his entry-level contract.
With Danny Briere back in action and Zac Rinaldo likely returning this week and Tye McGinn playing well, it didn’t make sense to keep Laughton around to play minimal time.
The Minnesota Wild followed suit in doing the same for defenseman Matthew Dumba as they sent him back to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. With the Wild getting rookie Jonas Brodin as well as Marco Scandella back from injuries, their defensive depth was more than sufficient.
Dumba did impress Wild brass with his ability to adapt quickly, but burning the first year of his contract wouldn’t have made much sense. We will miss our new favorite last name/number combination. Maybe Dumba-55 will be back next season.
Nobody wanted Tim Connolly for free. Perhaps they’re hoping to get him at a discount?
Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Connolly has cleared waivers.
It’s possible the Maple Leafs will try to trade the 31-year-old center while offering to retain part of his salary and cap hit (up to 50 percent, per the new CBA) as an inducement.
For now though, Connolly will report to the AHL Marlies.
Connolly had a disappointing 36 points in 70 games last season; however, he didn’t get near the amount of power-play time in Toronto as he did in Buffalo, where he put up 65 points for the Sabres in 2009-10.
Connolly is in the final year of his contract, with a salary of $4 million and cap hit of $4.75 million.
In other Leafs news, 18-year-old defenseman Morgan Rielly, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, has been sent back to WHL Moose Jaw.