There was a monkey running loose though the concourse of the MTS Centre on Wednesday night. That monkey was looking for a new home because he was just shaken off the shoulders of Eric Fehr, where the monkey had over stayed his welcome.
It would be an understatement to call Eric Fehr’s season disappointing. It has surpassed disappointment and morphed into sympathetic. Winnipeg Jets fan couldn’t help but jump a little higher out of their seats when Fehr blasted a shot though Dallas Stars goalie Richard Bachman. It was Fehr’s first goal in front of the home crowd and only his second overall in a campaign that has seen Fehr struggle with only three points.
Fehr was picked up in a trade not too long after the Jets moved to Winnipeg. I, like many others, was excited to see Fehr, a Manitoba boy, return to his home province where he was born and raised and enjoyed a very successful junior career. Fehr, a back-to-back 50 goal scorer for the Brandon Wheat Kings, had not duplicated the same scoring success in the NHL that he enjoyed in junior, but still put up decent numbers for the Washington Capitals including a 21-goal campaign two seasons ago. But there was not ma lot of prime ice-time to be had in Washington with the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin being looked to in almost all situations. I figured with an increased role in the Jets offence and more ice time to be had, Fehr would be good for 15-20 goals this year.
Off season shoulder surgery sidelined Fehr through training camp and the start of the season. He has just not been able to find his stride with the Jets. His struggles are not due to a lack of talent or age catching up with him, the 26-year-old Fehr is entering what should be the prime of his career. It only leaves confidence, or lack there of, as the reason he has not been able to pull it together so far. His frustration coming back from a his shoulder injury and not producing at the rate he was used to combined with the pressures of playing in front of his home crowd on the team he grew up cheering for has no doubt played a huge part in chipping away at his confidence.
The sentiment among many fans as Fehr enters restricted free agency this summer, is that perhaps the Jets should part ways with the Winkler, Manitoba product. However, maybe giving him a chance again next season might not be a bad idea.
It reminds me of a story I read about Maple Leafs legend Syl Apps, who after missing a large part of the season with a broken leg, offered to pay back part of his salary to the club because he thought he made more than he deserved that year. His offer was refused by Leafs general manager Conn Smythe who said “of course, I refused his cheque. I felt that anyone who thought in such terms was bound to square off what he thought was a debt the following season.”
I’m not suggesting Fehr pay back any part of the $2.2 million he’s taking home this season. But I think next year Fehr might be bound for a bounce back season. He has a lot to prove to himself and the organization and perhaps he can parlay that into the motivation needed to get back to double-digit goal totals. But it would take a good amount of faith from the Winnipeg Jets management. As a restricted free agent the Jets would have to offer Fehr, at minimum the same amount he made this season. Should the Jets or Fehr request an arbitration hearing, the lowest the Jets can offer him is 15 per cent less that what he’s currently making ($1.87 million).
If the Jets feel that Fehr can have a comeback season and get to the double-digit goal mark again, the price tag won’t be all that hard to swallow. But should the Jets look else where for a fringe top-six forward, Fehr won’t have much trouble getting another NHL team to take a chance on him. If the Jets decide not to re-sign him, he’ll turn into an unrestricted free agent and could be offered any amount and at lower cap hit than what he makes now, it would make him a more desirable target for a team‘s faith; lowering the risk and heightening the reward.