Contract talks between Jay DeMerit and Whitecaps to resume as defender eyes return

As Jay DeMerit eyes a possible and yet improbable return to the Vancouver Whitecaps lineup perhaps sometime next month, contract talks between the defender and the local club also appear set to resume.

The 33-year-old DeMerit, the club’s first ever Major League Soccer signing, is in the final year of his current deal, which, according to the league’s players’ union, is worth $375,000 in guaranteed compensation for this season.

Initial contract discussions first began last off-season, but were put on hold after DeMerit suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the first regular season match of the season against Toronto FC at BC Place Stadium.

DeMerit had surgery two days later, saying a week after the injury occurred that the recovery timeline would be six-to-eight months.

A fan inquired about DeMerit’s contract status on Saturday – following the Whitecaps 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union - during a question-and-answer session between season-ticket holders,  and the veteran centre back, club president Bob Lenarduzzi and head coach Martin Rennie.

“Prior to Jay actually getting injured, in the off-season, we were, at that time, discussing negotiating a new contract with Jay,” said Lenarduzzi in a phone interview on Monday.

“Of course, he got injured in the first game of the season and our intent was still to honour what we had talked about in terms of continuing to discuss his status with our club. And we did that even after the injury.

“At that time, it was decided we would wait until he got himself fit and then we would begin discussing at that time. So that’s where we’re at.”

DeMerit, who had been battling Achilles tendinitis during the pre-season prior to the rupture, is back on the pitch, training with his teammates.

It’s possible DeMerit, the club captain who will marry Olympic gold-medalist Ashleigh McIvor of Whistler on Aug. 25, could be back in the lineup a little less than six full months after the devastating injury occurred.

“I think his rehab has been a credit to his desire to get himself fit,” said Lenarduzzi.

“He’s worked very hard at it and been very diligent. I know that David Beckham had the same injury a few years back (suffered in March of 2010) and he was back within six months and it looks like, given where Jay’s at right now, participating in full practices, he will also meet that timeline.

“The issue will be him being fit and then determining how the team (is) doing at that time. The idea of having himself available for selection was always his intent and it looks like he’s going to achieve that objective.”

In three seasons with the Whitecaps, DeMerit has played in 53 regular season games – started in 52 of those – and scored once.

He also started in the club’s first ever MLS Cup playoff game last year against the L.A. Galaxy.

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