UPDATE: The Jets have confirmed the contract with Gawanke. It is a three-year entry-level deal worth $810K against the cap at the NHL level.
Following a breakout season with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, defenseman Leon Gawanke has earned his first NHL contract. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that the German blue liner has signed his entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets. While the term will be set to three years for the junior-age player, financial terms have not yet been disclosed.
Gawanke, 19, was a fifth-round pick of the Jets in 2017 after his first season in Cape Breton. The puck-moving defenseman had played exclusively in Germany beforehand, but did not look out of place as a QMJHL rookie, recording 32 points in 54 games. However, the 2017-18 season was somewhat problematic, as Gawanke’s offense stalled at 32 points despite playing a larger role and skating in eight more games. His defense also suffered as he was exposed against more difficult assignments. He appeared to be trending in the wrong direction and needed a strong campaign this year to reverse course. He provided just that, registering 57 points in 62 games and another seven points in the playoffs to tie for third on the team in scoring, both regular season and postseason. His defense also bounced back considerably – a difference of +34 between this season and last.
The Jets had until the June 1st deadline to sign Gawanke to his ELC, otherwise the young defenseman would have been eligible to re-enter the NHL Draft. Winnipeg has avoided that possibility and can look forward to the further development of the promising rearguard. However, a contract for Gawanke should not be confused for any immediate role with the Jets. Gawanke will almost certainly return to the Screaming Eagles next season and is likely a few years away at least from any NHL consideration.