The Winnipeg Jets have signed seventh-round pick Sami Niku to a three-year entry-level contract. The Finnish defenseman broke out in Liiga this year, registering 27 points in 59 games while playing for Jyvaskyla. Niku has been praised for his mobility and offensive upside, but had trouble producing in a consistent manner before this season.
He’ll enter a Winnipeg Jets system that is fairly weak on the left side behind Logan Stanley, now that Josh Morrissey has graduated to the NHL. With some of the best right-handed depth in the NHL including newcomer Tucker Poolman, the Jets are likely ecstatic with Niku’s development. Should he come to North America next season, he’ll pencil in as one of the top defenders for the Manitoba Moose and try to adapt to the pro game here.
- Jim Nill is standing by the contract for Ben Bishop according to Yahoo! Sports’ Greg Wyshynski. Nill admitted that in a perfect world he wouldn’t have had to give up six years, but is happy that Bishop wanted to make a commitment to his team. He also seemed confident that there will be opportunities to move one of his goaltenders this summer because of their expiring contracts, something that is necessary after committing to Bishop. As we wrote last week, the Stars do have several options to rid themselves of a goaltender, with Antti Niemi seemingly being the leading candidate for a buyout. Even with a long-term deal, Bishop will have a lot of pressure on him to help the Stars bounce back from a disappointing season. They’ll be looking not only to make the playoffs but to contend in short order, after leading the Western Conference in 2015-16.
- The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Rick Braunstein away from the Arizona Coyotes as their new Director of Player Services according to Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Braunstein was one of the Coyotes first hires after the move from Winnipeg, and had been with the franchise for their entire 21-year history. While not having an impact in personnel decisions, the Player Services role is an especially important one when it comes to Las Vegas, a city known for its endless temptation. Some of the hesitation by professional sports franchises for decades has been the worry that young, wealthy athletes will get into “trouble” in Vegas and the team will need a strong support system to stop it from happening; Braunstein represents some of that system.