Mike Curran, who’s the agent for Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Sami Niku, doesn’t know where the rumors are coming from that his client wants to move away from the Jets, but they are not coming from him or Niku. In fact, Curran was clear, his client has absolutely not requested a trade away from the Jets. (from “Trade winds blow but Niku wants to stay put, Jason Bell, Winnipeg Free Press, 25/10/20).
There Are Rumors, But We Didn’t Start Them
In fact, because Niku’s name has come up so often in trade rumors, Curran wanted to clear the air. As a result, during a phone interview on Sunday with the Free Press, he noted that “I wouldn’t comment on that normally. But no, we haven’t (asked the Jets for a trade).”
Can’t be blunter than that. Curran did note that “It’s (the rumor) been out there … But it didn’t come from us. (Niku) has set up shop there. For a kid not to go back to Finland during this whole pandemic process, that should say a lot about his desire to be there.”
There Is a Free-Sami Movement
It’s true that Niku’s name has been tossed around in trade rumors – something called the “Free Sami Movement.” Both Niku and forward Jack Roslovic have been talked about during trade speculations since the NHL Entry Draft and the opening of the free agency period earlier in October.
However, in the frenzy of all the Patrik Laine’s trade noise, these rumors are mere whispers to what most people see as the main issue facing the Jets. Still, however, these are players who need contracts of some sense of security and certainty in a circumstance (COVID-19) that is anything but certain. I’m sure everyone would like to get something settled.
Niku Should Be Sought After
When you have the potential and history Niku brings to the table, one would think he’d be a prize possession – if only based upon his history. Niku was the 2018 American Hockey League defenceman of the year and remains Winnipeg property.
His three-year, entry-level contract just expired and he’s currently an RFA. The Jets qualified him three weeks ago, but that’s now also expired. The seventh-round draft choice (198th overall) in the 2015 Draft doesn’t have arbitration rights.
Niku Had a Tough 2019-20 Season
Niku was often injured during the 2019-20 season; however, he does have a group of loyal fans. Some of these fans have begun to use the #FreeSami hashtag on Twitter as a way to push the Jets to give the Finnish defenseman a more established role with the team.
For sure, Niku is a great skater and good puck-mover, but he has some defensive liabilities that haven’t allowed him to move up the club’s depth chart. There are things to work on, but the word from Curran is that he’s already in Winnipeg skating to be ready for the next season.
From my perspective, given the ever-present need for right-handed defensemen, it’s surprising Niku hasn’t landed a contract with the Jets or the Jets haven’t traded him.
More to come on the trade or sign front.
There Is One “Short” Difference in Niku
By the way, there is one difference in Niku. When he was spotted working on his skating recently at The RINK Training Centre, his trademark long hair had disappeared. His comment was that he had a friend who cut it, but he hadn’t been able to see him because of COVID-19 so “He finally cut it all off.”
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