Trio become unrestricted free agents; Winnipeg retains negotiating rights to other IceCaps, including O'Dell, Cormier and Pasquale
The Winnipeg Jets have decided against extending qualifying offers to three players who spent all of last season with the St. John's IceCaps, making them unrestricted free agents.
Forwards Jason Gregoire and Maxime Macenauer, along with defenceman Will O' Neill, are the players who have been jettisoned by the Jets.
When an NHL organization makes qualifying to its players who are impending restricted free agents, it allows the team retain the negotiating rights for those players. For most of those who were at the minor-league level the previous season, the qualifying offer will involve a 10 per cent raise on their base NHL contract.
Among the 13 players the Jets have qualified are goalie Eddie Pasquale and forwards Eric O'Dell and Patrick Cormier, all regulars on the IceCaps in 2012-13. Also receiving qualifying offers from Winnipeg were defencemen Zach Bogosian, Arturs Kulda, Paul Postma and Zach Redmond and forwards Alexander Burmistrov, Tomas Kubalik, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Eric Tangradi and Anthony Peluso.
Postma, Redmond and Burmistrov all played with St. John's during the NHL lockout last season, while Kubalik joined the IceCaps after a midseason trade that saw him acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Spencer Machacek. Kubalik has since signed to play in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), but by extending the qualifying offer, the Jets retain his NHL rights.
Kulda played in the KHL for most of last season, but joined the Jets late in the season. He had played in St. John's in 2011-12.
Gregoire was a much-wooed free agent when he left the University of North Dakota in 2011, but the Winnipeg native, a prolific scorer at the collegiate level, could not earn a permanent place on the IceCaps' top two lines during his two seasons in St. John's. Last season, the 24-year-old had 10 goals and 18 points in 60 games.
Macenauer, also 24, had started the 2011-12 season in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks, but finished off with the IceCaps after a trade that sent Riley Holzapfel the other way. He did attend the Jets' short training camp in January of this year at the end of the NHL lockout, but had mostly a miserable season, entirely spent with St. John's, where he had 11 goals, 11 assists and a team-worst minus-29 rating in 68 games.
The 2012-13 campaign was O'Neill's first full one as a pro after graduating from the University of Maine in 2012. He was second among all IceCaps blueliners in scoring, with 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in 59 games, but was minus 21. The 25-year-old O'Neill had been a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006.
Winnipeg also decided against giving a qualifying offer to goalie Chris Carrozzi, who has played mostly in the ECHL, but had short stints with the IceCaps the last two years.