By Carter Brooks
Photo by Jonathan Kozub
It took just the first five hours of the NHL's official free agency period for five of Manitoba's best to find their 2019-20 homes.
With over $500 million in total salary dollars handed out on over 100 July 1st signings from the first five hours of unrestricted free agency, five Manitobans locked themselves into new contracts for the upcoming 2019-20 NHL season. Leading the way was Colin Wilson - the only Manitoban to re-sign with his 2018-19 club.
Wilson, 29, of Winnipeg, put pen to paper on a one-year short-term deal with the Colorado Avalanche, carrying an annual average value of $2.6 million. The depth forward put up 12 goals and 27 points in 65 regular season contests for the Avs in 2018-19, before erupting for four goals and eight points in just 12 postseason games - a place he has been known to shine in the past.
Fellow Winnipegger Brendan Leipsic also agreed to terms on a new deal with the Washington Capitals. The one-year contract will pay the 25-year-old $700K in the 2019-20 season. The former Winnipeg Monarch has already been moved through four NHL teams in his short career.
Beginning with Toronto, he was then sent to Vegas in the expansion draft. After skating in 44 games for the Golden Knights, Leipsic was sent to Vancouver. This past season, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound left winger was shipped off to Los Angeles after dressing in just 17 games for the Canucks. The high-flying former Portland Winterhawk amassed seven goals and 23 points combined between the Canucks and Kings in 2018-19.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard - also of Winnipeg - agreed to terms with the Detroit Red Wings early Monday afternoon. His two-year deal will also come in the range of $700K annually with the Wings. The 27-year-old split time between the Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers in 2018-19, while also serving time in the American Hockey League with the Tucson Roadrunners.
Winkler's Byron Froese also signed off on a one-year, $700K deal Monday afternoon, agreeing to terms with the Calgary Flames on a short-term 'prove it' style of deal. Since the 2015-16 season, Froese has slowly earned pay increases by the thousand in both NHL and AHL play. Most recently with Montreal/Laval, the 28-year-old contributed 21 goals, 44 points and 51 penalty minutes in 70 AHL contests this past season. Having moved through the Leafs', Lightning's, Canadiens' and Flyers' systems, this stop in Calgary is certainly a make-it-or-break-it kind of contract for the Manitoban.
Springfield, MB. product Brett Lernout became the newest member of the Manitoba-fed Vegas Golden Knights. The 23-year-old defenceman spent the past four seasons in the Montreal Canadiens' system, playing mainly with the Habs' farm team in St. John's and most recently Laval. In 279 career AHL games, Lernout has 10 goals, 45 points and 212 penalty minutes. In signing the former Winnipeg Shark to a one-year, $700K deal, Vegas' GM Kelly McCrimmon now has seven rostered Manitobans at his disposal, including Lernout, Ryan Reaves, Mark Stone, Cody Eakin, Keegan Kolesar, Cody Glass and Zach Whitecloud.
With Manitobans Michael Ferland, Eric Fehr, Cody McLeod, Justin Falk and Ryan White left to sign new contracts for the upcoming 2019-20 season, plenty of news and money is left to be made as the NHL's offseason continues.