CALGARY — Josh Morrissey said he is “100 percent” healthy and will be ready to go when the Winnipeg Jets open training camp next month.
The 28-year-old defenseman sustained a season-ending lower-body injury in the first period of a 5-4 double overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round on April 22. Vegas would win the next two games to eliminate Winnipeg before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
“It was kind of a 4-6 week timeline,” Morrissey told NHL.com before participating in the Rogers Legends of Hockey Charity Skins Game on Saturday. “Obviously, it’s kind of the worst time of year to get hurt. (You) play all year and compete to have that opportunity in the playoffs. But at the same time, in a way it’s better that you have months to recover and you’re not rushing back.
“Been taking my time with it, really trying to do it right, using all the different modalities and things you can do. I’m 100 percent ready to go. No lingering issues at all.”
Morrissey had his best season in the NHL in 2022-23, setting career highs in goals (16), assists (60), points (76; previous career high was 37), power-play points (28), game-winning goals (six), and average time on ice (24:14; first on Winnipeg). He finished fifth in voting for the Norris Trophy as the League’s top defenseman.
“Josh really broke out as a true No. 1 last year,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said. “He’s going to continue kind of on that trajectory and maintain that level of play.”
However, the season wasn’t a satisfying one for Morrissey.
The Jets started 31-16-1 and were first in the Western Conference on Jan. 22, but they stumbled down the stretch, going 15-17-2 in their final 34 games. As a result, they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild card, just two points ahead of the Calgary Flames, before losing in the first round to Vegas.
“There was disappointment,” Morrissey said. “I felt like we kind of had a tale of two seasons. The first half of the year we were close if not for a little bit leading the division and conference even. The second half we didn’t love, but I was proud of the way we responded in the last sort of month of the year.
“When it was all said and done, it was disappointing.”
That disappointment resulted in some big offseason changes.
First, the Jets traded forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings on June 27 for forwards Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo and Rasmus Kupari, and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Three days later, forward Blake Wheeler was placed on unconditional waivers and had the final season of his five-year, $41.25 million contract ($8.25 million average annual value) bought out. He signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers on July 1.
“I think everyone knew there were probably some changes on the horizon. There always is in the NHL,” Morrissey said. “We knew there would probably be some big moves. Disappointing that we couldn’t do more with the group we had because we felt we probably could’ve. Just more motivation for the future.”
That motivation is what’s been fueling Morrissey this offseason.
“I feel once August hits for sure, you’re skating and ramping up again. … It gets that fire,” he said.
“Even the last week I felt like on the ice I started to feel that fire of wanting to get back at it. (I) obviously (want to) improve on my season last year and try to have a chance to improve our team this year and go farther than we did. It was a disappointing finish getting hurt in the first round. I’m healed up, healthy and ready to go for next year.”