Dylan Samberg signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
The contract has an average annual value of $1.175 million and will begin in the 中国体彩官方app-21 NHL season.
Samberg, a 21-year-old defenseman, scored 21 points (one goal, 20 assists) in 28 games this season, his third at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He said the fact that the NCAA canceled the remainder of its season on March 12, the same day the NHL season went on pause due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, factored into his decision to sign with the Jets.
"I think it had a little bit of an effect," Samberg said. "Obviously I was hoping … our season ended a lot sooner than planned. I was planning after this season to hopefully move on, and maybe possibly get that time in the NHL this year. But after this virus happened that kind of got put aside. We were kind of waiting, my family and I, and talking. There was no need to rush, but we eventually came to a deal that I liked and jumped on."
Samberg, a second-round pick (No. 43) in the 2017 NHL Draft, could be in the running for a full-time NHL role next season. The Jets had depth issues at defenseman this season after trading Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in June and losing Tyler Myers (Vancouver Canucks) and Ben Chiarot (Montreal Canadiens) each as a free agent. In addition, Dustin Byfuglien has not played this season.
"If he has a good training camp, there's certainly an opportunity for him to compete for a job on the Jets," Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said of Samberg. "He's developed a tremendous amount physically (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) over the course of time since we drafted him and obviously he's developed mentally as well. He's the type of player that's certainly ready to turn pro."
Winnipeg also dealt with numerous injuries to its defensemen. Neal Pionk, who was acquired in the trade for Trouba, is the only defenseman to play all 71 games; Morrissey is second (65). The Jets have used 11 defensemen, including Ville Heinola, the No. 20 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft who is one of two 18-year-old defensemen to play in the NHL this season (Tobias Bjornfot, Los Angeles Kings). Heinola played eight NHL games in October before being assigned to Lukko in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.
"Obviously, it's exciting for him and for our team and us," Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey said. "I've only really had the chance to see him play at the World Junior for a couple of years, and obviously he's a big, strong defenseman, and it's exciting to have him into the fold. Obviously, he's had three really good years at school, and it'll be a great addition to our team, hopefully as soon as possible in the future and hopefully for many years going forward."
Samberg had 53 points (nine goals, 44 assists) in 109 games over three seasons at Minnesota Duluth and helped them win the NCAA Division I men's hockey championship in 2018 and 2019. Minnesota Duluth was trying to become the second school to win three straight titles (University of Michgan, 1951-53).
"It was very tough. I'm not going to lie on that one," Samberg said. "It was a weird day. I remember getting off the ice after practice and our coaches came in and told us the news that our season had ended. We were all in just disbelief. It's tough because that was a big reason why I came back and I kind of feel like it got taken away from me. But with all this stuff going on, there's not really much you can do and it's for the best. Really, you've just got to move forward with it."
Said Cheveldayoff: "Obviously he went back this year to try to accomplish something that would have been a tremendous feat, the chance to potentially three-peat; again he's been a big part of all those teams. He's a guy who knows how to win. He's been a part of organizations that have won."
Samberg played for the United States at the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. He scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games to help the United States finish third in 2018, and had two assists in seven games in 2019 when the United States lost to Finland in the championship game.
"We've obviously scouted him extensively. We're very excited," Cheveldayoff said. "We've been very high on him for many years, since we drafted him. He's gone and turned into a really good college player, a real steady player. We made a real strong pitch to try to convince him to turn pro during the summer. ... We felt that he was someone who's physically ready to play pro and we were looking at welcoming that at any point in time.
"We're thankful that the process has now come to a conclusion and now our pro staff, and pro development staff and can start to take a hold of his training and get him ready for the season."
staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report