Jason Jaffray’s big concern Wednesday evening was about getting to Philadelphia. But making it to Winnipeg at some point in the future had to be in the back of his mind.
Earlier in the day, the parent Winnipeg Jets announced they had signed the 31-year-old captain of the St. John’s IceCaps to a National Hockey League contract. Jaffray, the IceCaps’ leading scorer with 20 points in 27 American Hockey League game this season, had been operating on an AHL deal.
For now, Jaffray is remaining with the IceCaps, who begin a six-game road trip Friday night in Norfolk, Va., but the new arrangement means he can be recalled by the Jets at anytime.
“There had been talk over the summer about possibly converting my AHL contract into an NHL deal,”said Jaffray Wednesday from Pearson International Airport in Toronto, where he and the IceCaps were waiting on a delayed flight to Philadelphia.
“But they (the Jets) were probably a little reluctant to make the offer, with the (NHL) CBA expiring and everything.”
There was also the matter of Jaffray’s health. Last spring, he had undergone spinal fusion surgery to replace two damaged disc in his neck, the result of a thundering hit in a game at Norfolk in March.
“Right now, I feel the healthiest I have in a long time, but back then, I’m sure they wondered how it was going to turn out. That probably was a reason for caution,” he said.
The two sides did agree to the AHL deal, which Jaffray says made him “one of the lucky ones to play the first half of the (hockey) season” while so many pro players were idle during the NHL lockout.
Despite a delayed start while he awaited final medical clearance to play, Jaffray has been one of the best — if not the best — IceCaps through the first half of his campaign. And while that certainly contributed to the Jets’ decision to sign him to the NHL deal, he expressed greatest concern for his present team, which finds itself in last place in the Atlantic Division.
“The last few weeks, I haven’t been giving a whole lot of thought to those sorts of things,” he answered when asked if he had been keeping track of how many NHL contracts the Jets had in effect(teams are permitted no more than 50 at a time).
“Things haven’t been going as planned for us in St. John’s and that was kind of what I was wrapping my head around lately.
“And if there is one thing I’ve learned is that if you take care of the job in front of you, other things have a way of falling into place.”
While there is no guarantee Jaffray will remain with St. John’s, the IceCaps certainly could use him as they begin a road trip, that was to see the team bus from Philadelphia to Norfolk, if the flights co-operated.
Forward John Albert is scheduled to return to action Friday after a lengthy stay on the injured list, but his place in the infirmary has been taken by rookie winger Ivan Telegin, who is suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Telegin was hurt in St. John’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Marlies Sunday at Mile One Centre, a victory that ended the IceCaps’ six-game home-ice losing streak.
Telegin is the third IceCaps forward sidelined because of concussion issues, joining Jason King and Hunter Tremblay.
While the Jets did not promote Jaffray after signing him, they did add a forward to their training-camp roster Wednesday, claiming big right-winger Anthony Peluso off waivers from St. Louis.
The 23-year-old was playing with the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen, but Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel sees him filling the kind of role played by Tanner Glass last season on the Jets’ fourth line.
At six-foot-four and 234 pounds, Peluso adds size to the position.
“The reports that we get on him is a decent skater than can play some minutes,” Noel told The Canadian Press. “The important thing for us is he can play some minutes..”
If the Jets ever decide to assign Peluso to St. John’s, he would again be subject to waivers, with the Blues having first right of claim.