Winchester waits for bite
BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
|A training camp injury on Saturday has KO'd Senator Jesse Winchester. (Blair Gable/Reuters)
As a fisherman, Jesse Winchester has learned it takes patience to land the big one.
He has to take the same approach to his hockey career.
While the Senators could bring Winchester back if GM Bryan Murray makes another move, the 28-year-old centre currently is shopping himself around the UFA market for a deal next season.
Winchester has had to sit back and watch through the first four days of free agency. While Teammates Filip Kuba (Florida Panthers), Matt Carkner (New York Islanders) and Zenon Konopka (Minnesota Wild) were snapped up on the first day Sunday, Winchester has waited.
While there are concerns about Winchester’s health after he missed a lot of last season with a concussion, he has passed his baseline test, has been cleared by doctors and will be ready to play for whatever team signs him.
“I’m just taking it day by day like I have for the past six months,” Winchester said after completing a workout near his Long Sault home Wednesday. “I didn’t play a lot last year, so I’m just trying to stay positive.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve talked to (agent Peter Fish) quite a bit. I was hoping to be picked up early. If you look at years past, there are so many guys who sign late in the summer and later in July. There’s a wave of stuff that happens. I’m not a huge piece to the puzzle, so I’ve got to take a back seat to some of the other stars and role players.”
Signed as a free agent from Colgate University on March 28, 2008, Winchester spent parts of five seasons with the Senators. He was effective in a fourth-line role and as a penalty killer. At this juncture, Ottawa has too many forwards.
Nailed into the glass by Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad in late December, Winchester missed most of the season with a concussion. He returned in the playoffs against the New York Rangers, but didn’t make it through the series.
Since the end of the season, he has received the proper amount of rest required to recover from the head injury and is back in full gear preparing for the start of the season. He’s just not sure where that’s going to be.
“There will be a place for me at some point,” said Winchester. “I’ve just got to stay upbeat and positive. I’ll be ready when something happens.
“For whatever reason, nothing has happened yet. There is some genuine interest. I passed the baseline a couple of weeks ago.”
Murray said on the weekend he’d have interest in bringing Winchester back to Ottawa if he makes a deal involving one his forwards. There’s nothing on the radar screen to suggest that’s going to happen.
Winchester is appreciative of everything the Senators have done for him and there won’t be any hard feelings if he’s not brought back by the organization.
“I’ve loved it here. It’s close to home and there’s so much support for me along with my friends around. That’s been really nice,” he said. “I was hopeful it would work out here. If it doesn’t, that’s the way it goes.”