Archive for June, 2012

Pavelec signs five-year deal

- June 25th, 2012

The Winnipeg Jets took care of one of their most pressing issues on Monday morning, clearing up any confusion as to who was going to be their starting goalie in 2012-13 by signing Ondrej Pavelec to a 5-year deal for $19.5 million or an average of $3.9 mil per season.

There are some folks who think the amount might be a little high, considering Pavelec has no NHL playoff games on his resume.

We think the number is fair for both sides.

You could make an argument that the $3.25 million Pavelec will make next season is a little high based on his 2011-12 statistics.

Fair comment, but the number wouldn’t have been dramatically less had the two sides gone to arbitration instead. The Jets bought two years of unrestricted free agency and those years cost a little more money but still the team enough flexibility to sign the other members of the core — like Blake Wheeler and Zach Bogosian — to long-term pacts after their contracts expire at the end of next season.

Evander Kane is also due a raise and we’ll be watching closely to see how long a deal he’s offered and at what dollar value. I do think this deal gets done, but a five-year deal might be a little more challenging to get to. We’ll see.

As I argued in the column on Thursday, Pavelec might be slightly overpaid in the first year, but in the fifth season (should his develop continue), $4.75 million might be a bargain — especially when you consider the rumblings out there that Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is mulling over an offer in the range of $6 million per.

So you counter by saying Price is the better goalie and right now, that’s certainly true.

Pavelec, 24, said on his conference call his goal is to become the best goalie in the NHL. He knows he has plenty of work to get there.

He also said he had no issue giving up two years of unrestricted free agency.

“Absolutely not, it’s something I was looking for, a long deal. As long as I can stay in Winnipeg, it’s better for me,” said Pavelec, who was back home in the Czech Republic. “I always said that I like Winnipeg and I’m really happy for a deal right now. It’s behind me right now and I’m just looking forward to (having) success in Winnipeg.”

Pavelec also talked about how much he loves Winnipeg and what he enjoyed most during his first season here.

“Absolutely, the fans. There were unbelievable all year long,” said Pavelec. “Sometimes we didn’t play the best hockey, but they were always behind us and always support us. It was fun to be part of it.

“What was important was that I feel really good in Winnipeg and I’m really happy. I knew Chevy wants me to stay to stay in Winnipeg and I really wanted to stay in Winnipeg. I always believed that we could make a deal.”

Some thought Pavelec was simply using an offer from SKA St. Petersberg as leverage, but he addressed that as well.

“I had the option to go to KHL, it was really good money and it was really good. But the first thing I was thinking was that I wanted to stay in Winnipeg and that’s exactly what happened,” he explained.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters on a conference call from the American Hockey League meetings in South Carolina that he wasn’t threatened by the KHL offer.

“We’re dealing from an NHL perspective and a Winnipeg Jets perspective,” said Cheveldayoff. “All we can do is do our due diligence behind the scenes from a contract compareables. When you’re dealing with unrestricted years, there are some valuation difficulties in trying to ascertain what the right numbers should be. All along, we were dealing with our own information internally and putting forward what were fair and equitable deals.

“We’re very excited about locking Ondrej up and we’re actually even more excited that Ondrej wants to commit and be a part of the process of the Winnipeg Jets moving forward.”

What’s not up for debate is that this deal is important for the franchise. Sure, the Jets showed a long-term commitment to Pavelec, but he also has committed to them, which means he believes they can make the necessary improvements to take the next step.

“That’s another factor. We had a great group of guys last year and we always think of playoffs,” said Pavelec. “If you sign a five-year deal, you have to be sure the organization is going in the right direction. I want to win and I want to be successful. I really believe in my teammates. That’s why I signed a five-year deal.”

Having a good goaltender is critical to having success at any level, especially the NHL

As for the backup job, you’d have to think that either Chris Mason will be back or Jonas Gustavsson will be signed (both are UFAs on July 1).

We’re not privy to the Jets’ budget for next season, but we expect the Jets will want to spend less than $5 million on the two goalies at NHL level, likely less than $4.75. That leaves around $1.5 million (or less) to sign the backup.

Pavelec and Mason have good chemistry and it would be logical to reunite the pair for a third consecutive season.

But if the Jets are looking to get younger, Gustavsson seems like a strong option.

It’s going to be a busy week for the Jets as unrestricted free agency is right around the corner and gets underway Sunday.

A few other nuggets from Monday:

Receiving qualifying offers were: LW Evander Kane, RW Spencer Machacek, D Paul Postma, D Brett Festerling, D Arturs Kulda, F Ben Maxwell and F Maxime Macenauer.

Those cut loose include: F Fredrik Pettersson, F Mike Forney, D John Negrin and RW Eric Fehr, though Cheveldayoff said the Jets were still considering bringing him back, presumably at a lower salary and/or possibly on a two-way deal.

What do Jets fans think about the Pavelec contract (cast your vote in the comments section or on twitter):

1) Fair deal

2) Overpaid

3) Underpaid

I voted for fair deal.

 

Emptying the notebook: Jets June 24 edtion

- June 24th, 2012

We’re back from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in lovely Pittsburgh, Penn.

Busy few days, but it made for a Sunday on the Jets front, since the media was traveling home and several members of the Jets management team were off to the American Hockey League meetings in South Carolina.

Nothing new on the Ondrej Pavelec negotiations, but we expect them to heat up this week. A deal before July 1 remains a possibility as things could change quickly, but if I had to bet right now I might have to take the over on the over/under.

For some reason, I think it will be a four-year deal, maybe five.

The Jets think Pavelec can grow into an elite goalie and after doing some double-checking, he’s going to be an unrestricted free agent after three seasons (because his birthday falls after July 1), so signing a three-year pact doesn’t seem like a good idea.

A two-year deal? Not likely.

However, I’d bet the farm I don’t own that Pavelec is the Jets No. 1 goalie next season and beyond.

How negotiations go will have some impact in what the Jets do with the No. 2 job.

As it stands right now, veteran Chris Mason and recently-acquired Jonas Gustavsson, will both be UFAs on July 1.

So expect talks on both fronts this week.

Spoke with Mason this afternoon and he’s still hopeful a deal can get done, though not sure it will be done before Sunday. He’s heading to Hawaii with his family Monday morning to unwind.

Meanwhile, I also had a discussion with Gustavsson’s agent Joe Resnick on Sunday afternoon, and while meeting briefly with Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on Saturday after the deal with the Maple Leafs was completed, Resnick still isn’t sure where The Monster fits in the Jets plans.

Bringing in Gustavsson makes sense on a host of levels, as he’s 27-years-old and shown flashes of brilliance. After being relegated to backup duty with the Maple Leafs, Gustavsson still appeared in 42 games last season. Gustavsson hasn’t lived up to the hype just yet but the Maple Leafs weren’t exactly defensively sound.

Speaking to a few people in Pittsburgh, Gustavsson is said to be a really good guy and maybe he would mesh with Pavelec as well. But he’s at a different stage of his career and has to believe he can still be an NHL starter. Competition is always good, but so is harmony in the crease as well.

On the flip side, Mason might be 36 but he carries plenty of weight in the Jets’ dressing room. He has a good relationship with Pavelec and while part of his job is to push the starter, Mason knows where he stands and is supportive. While he was used sparingly in the final 30-plus games, Mason should be able to give you somewhere around 20 starts.

I don’t really have a strong feeling about which way the Jets are going to go here.

It’s possible that neither is signed and the Jets look outside the organization, maybe at someone like Scott Clemmensen, who shared the net with Jose Theodore last season and had a couple of excellent outings against the Jets last season and even saw some playoff action against the New Jersey Devils.

Clemmensen should attract plenty of attention for those looking for an experienced backup on July 1.

We’ll be delving into free agency a bit more as the week wears on.

For now, you should know that Monday is the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.

It’s clear the Jets will be extending QOs to Pavelec, Evander Kane, Spencer Machacek, Paul Postma and likely Arturs Kulda.

As we reported yesterday, Eric Fehr isn’t getting a QO and will become an unrestricted free agent.

The 18th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft might have to take a two-way deal after enduring a tough first season with the Jets, but scoring is tough to find in the NHL and he’s only three years removed from a 20-goal season. Perhaps a team like the Montreal Canadiens could be a fit.

Many are giving up on the Winkler product but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him hit double digits in goals for somebody next season. Time will tell.

We’ll take a look at the Jets remaining RFAs in the organization at the bottom of this post.

One final item. Highly sought-after defenceman Justin Schultz became an unrestricted free agent at 11 p.m. on Sunday night (midnight ET) and he’ll be attracting plenty of interest.

Schultz played with Toronto Maple Leafs D-man Jake Gardiner with the Wisconsin Badgers of the NCAA and is believed to be ready to jump right in and play among some teams top two pairings.

Money won’t be the biggest consideration for Schultz, who will likely get the maximum from whatever team inks him to an entry-level contract.

Most teams in the NHL are expected to make a pitch for Schultz. Some of the early front-runners are the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers. Don’t discount Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He would be a great addition there. The Chicago Blackhawks make sense also, as do the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would be reunited with Gardiner. You could make the case Schultz would look good on any NHL roster.

The Jets have a lot of right-hand shot blue-liners in their system in both NHL and AHL rosters, but this is an opportunity to add a highly-skilled player for nothing but dollars and cents, so you’d think they will at least make him an offer.

Although he can’t sign until July 1, teams will likely begin to make their pitches starting sometime early this week.

Schultz had 40 goals and 83 assists for 113 points in 121 games during his college career, including 16 goals and 44 points in 37 games with the Badgers in 2011-12.

Before we go, here’s  the list of free agents who spent the bulk of the season with the St. John’s IceCaps (we’re off on Monday and Tuesday) but either myself or Kirk Penton will provide updates as the full lists become available:

F Ben Maxwell

F Maxime Macenauer

F Mike Forney

D Brett Festerling

D John Negrin

F Fredrik Pettersson

Quick thoughts from Day 2 of NHL Entry Draft

- June 23rd, 2012

PITTSBURGH — So another NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, the second for the 2.0 version of the Winnipeg Jets.

There wasn’t quite as much drama on Day 2 of the 2012 edition at CONSOL Energy Center, but there was a late trade that came after the 210th and final selection was made as the Toronto Maple Leafs sent defenceman Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for left-winger James van Riemsdyk.

The Jets also made a move that could turn out to be interesting if they actually sign goalie Jonas Gustavsson to a contract.

Gustavsson, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was picked up from the Maple Leafs for a conditional seventh round pick that will only be moved if The Monster signs with the Jets.

Our initial take is that Gustavsson is an interesting addition. We still think Plan A for the Jets would be to bring back veteran Chris Mason, but by acquiring Gustavsson’s rights, they can get a one-week jump on the competition for his services once free agency opens.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the move has nothing to do with negotiations for pending RFA Ondrej Pavelec and we can take those words at face value. Mason remains an option for the Jets – and a good one. We’ve supported the thought of bringing back Mason as his value to the team stretches far beyond what you see in his 20 or so games played. He’s a true professional and a leader on a young team trying to learn how to win consistently.

As for the five picks the Jets made on Saturday to go along with first rounder Jacob Trouba, we’re going to give you a box with some background on the players.

No in-depth instant analysis here at this stage of the proceedings.

However, we were talking about Lukas Sutter with someone on Friday night and thought he might be the perfect fit for what the Jets might be looking for in the second round, provided they didn’t take a goalie like Oscar Dansk, who got scooped up by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the first pick of Round 2.

Sutter brings far more than just the familiar family name. He’s a heart-and-soul player who increased his offence dramatically with the Saskatoon Blades last season.

He’s engaging and grounded and comes wired with great hockey sense and an outstanding work ethic.

“I play a little bit similar to Brandon,” said Lukas, referring to his cousin, who was in middle of Friday’s blockbuster that sent Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes. “I have a little bit more sandpaper to my game and play a little bit tougher. You have to play that way to be a successful player nowadays. Look at the way LA played down the stretch. Everyone was physical. They pay the price and that’s something they take a lot of pride in.”

I asked his father Rich, a longtime NHLer, is Lukas also had that competitive spirit?

“Ever since Tim-Bits, when he was a little guy,” said Rich.

To recap, the Jets chose a pair of bigger, gritty centres, a couple of project goalies who are heading to college, a right-winger with a nice combination of skill and sandpaper.

Everybody thinks there team is a winner by the end of the weekend and in five years or so, we’ll have a much better idea if they’re right or not.

What are your initial thoughts on the picks?

Here’s a quick round-up on Jets picks, with more to follow on Sunday:

2012 NHL Entry Draft Winnipeg Jets selections

1. 9th overall, D Jacob Trouba, 18, United States Under-18 Development program
Birthplace: Rochester, Mich. 6-2, 187, United States Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 50 GP, 9 G, 22 A, 31 P, 65 PIM

2. 39th overall, C Lukas Sutter, 18, Saskatoon Blades
Birthplace: St. Louis, Mo. 6-0, 215, Western Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 70 GP, 28 G, 31 A, 59 P, 165 PIM

3. 70th overall, RW Scott Kosmachuk, 18, Guelph Storm
Birthplace: Richmond Hill, Ont. 5-11, 185, Ontario Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 67 GP, 30 G, 29 A, 59 P110 PIM

5. 130th overall, G Connor Hellebuyck, 19, Odessa Jackalopes
Birthplace: Commerce, Mich. 6-foot-4, 185, North American Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 53 GP, 26-21-5 record, 3 SO, 2.49 GAA, .930 save %

6. 160th overall, C Ryan Olsen, 18, Saskatoon Blades
Birthplace: Delta, B.C., 6-1, 187 pounds, Western Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 67 GP, 15 G, 17 A, 32 P, 64 PIM

7. 190th overall, G Jamie Phillips, 19, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
Birthplace: Caledonia, Ont.., 6-1, 170 pounds, Ontario Junior Hockey League
2011-12 stats: 11 GP, 4-4-2 record, 1 SO, 3.11 GAA, .917 save %

Jets select Trouba in first round of 2012 NHL Entry Draft

- June 22nd, 2012

PITTSBURGH — As an unpredictable first round was unfolding, Kevin Cheveldayoff was starting to feel the anticipation that he might get one of the top players on the Winnipeg Jets draft board.

That doesn’t always happen when you hold the ninth selection in the first round.

However, when several top prospects started getting bypassed for others not projected to go in the Top-10, things began to come into focus.

With seven names off the board, the Jets only needed to wait for the Carolina Hurricanes to make their pick.

There was some buzz the Hurricanes were interested in Kitchener Rangers centre Radek Faksa, a guy with a nice blend of size and skill that the Jets also ranked high.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stepped to the microphone to announce a trade and the building took a deep breath when the Pittsburgh Penguins made the deal that moved Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes for the 8th pick, centre Brandon Sutter and a D-man prospect Brian Dumoulin.

Blockbuster alert and it didn’t even involve Rick Nash.

“Anytime there’s a trade that’s made involving a pick right in front of you, you kind of wonder what the team is thinking,” said Cheveldayoff. “You’ve maybe studied the teams in front of you before the pick to see what their needs might be or where they might go, but when that trade was made, you’re sitting there for a couple of seconds again and wondering. But again, it was a big trade as well. Obviously, both teams made some things happen for their organization.”

Ultimately the Penguins chose Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks and the Jets promptly selected Jacob Trouba.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to get him where we were,” said Cheveldayoff. “As it started to unfold and get closer and closer to our pick, we started to get a little air of excitement that there could be a possibility he was going to fall into our lap.”

Cheveldayoff said Thursday that given the unpredictability of this draft, he wouldn’t necessarily be taking the guy that was ninth on the Jets draft board. In the end, it wasn’t even close.

“He was well up on our list,” said Cheveldayoff. “There are a lot of different qualities we’re looking for in acquiring players,” said Cheveldayoff. “He’s a big, strong defender who will be tough to play against. He loves to play a hard-hitting game and his character is something that is exceptional as well. He’s been a captain on different teams and loves to play the game.”

Cheveldayoff said the Jets never really got close to moving up in the draft.

“There was a lot of talk, but not a lot that really transpired,” he said. “As it turns out, we really didn’t have to move up to get someone in an area we would have had to move up for.”

Trouba showed his enthusiasm in his meeting with the media and shared a number of interesting stories that I dealt with in my column and sidebar.

We’ll go into a few more of those nuggets tomorrow.

For now, we’ll leave it in your hands.

What do you think about the pick?

Personally, I was thinking the Jets would go the other day and was very curious when names like Radek Faksa, Mikhail Grigorenko, Teuvo Teravainen and D-man Cody Ceci were still left.

At the end of the day, I watched Trouba at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and really appreciate his game.

It’s going to take time for him to make it as he’s attending the University of Michigan this fall. But he’s the type of player that is most likely going to be worth the wait.

 

 

Jets nearly set for 2012 NHL Entry Draft

- June 21st, 2012

PITTSBURGH — The big day is nearly here.

After scouring the continent to get a taste of what players bring to the table and then meeting with a host of them for interviews both at the NHL combine and later at the draft itself, the final preparations are being done and the meetings are coming to a crescendo.

At just after six p.m. on Friday night, the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will be underway at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh and 30 young men will be welcomed to the NHL as first round draft picks.

While there has been plenty of debate about the quality of talent in the draft, Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he’d be more than comfortable about his chances of landing a quality player if they draft with the ninth overall pick they currently own.

“There’s a lot of top-flight players from a lot of different perspectives,” said Cheveldayoff. “The guy that’s at nine on our list might not be the guy that we’re drafting. We might be drafting No. 4 on our list if he’s still there.

“Up and down the list, there’s a lot of intriguing players. Getting the opportunity to meet with them, talk with them and hear their passion for the game and talk about their backgrounds, their upbringing, they’re goals, they’re dreams, it’s an exciting time for them. But it’s an exciting time for the franchise as well.”

Don’t look for the Jets to abandon their philosophy of selecting the best player available either.

“The unpredictability of the draft lends itself even more to drafting the best player because if you try to reach for a position, it might not be successful,” said Cheveldayoff. “The best player is certainly defined differently in every organization.”

There’s also a belief that after the first few picks, there could be a number of different scenarios as to who guess next and in what order.

Does that create more opportunity for movement on draft day?

“Since I’m not in the Top-5, it’s hard to really ascertain what’s going on,” said Cheveldayoff. “There’s lots of casual conversations. As the day goes on, as interviews start to wind down and teams start to really dig in with respect to where they’re at and what the possibilities will be, I suspect there will be more phone calls and the way (Friday) lays out, it’s a full day before the round takes place.

“There’s lots of time yet. You know all the different opportunities that you’ve discussed. Some of them may become relevant at different points and time. You tend to see if maybe they are there or not, but it’s a very, very fluid situation from now, right until the time you make the pick.”

The days leading up to the draft have been filled with meetings with prospects and healthy debate among scouts as to who might be the best fit with the organization.

“It’s been pretty busy,” said Cheveldayoff, who met with a host of prospects on Thursday. “I just know how the meetings have gone with us and the amount of discussion that has gone into each and every player. The fine line between the players and trying to rank one over the other, the difficulty we’ve had at different points and time, I would imagine it’s the same for other teams as well.

“It will be an interesting first round, but as you keep on progressing I think it will continue to be interesting as well.

With a year as GM under his belt, Cheveldayoff was asked if his phone was getting more of a workout leading up to the draft?

“I don’t know that anything is any different from that perspective,” he said. “This year’s draft is shaping up to be a little different than maybe other year’s drafts, from the standpoint of maybe there was a more unified top of the list from organization to organization. The conversations are pretty much the same.”

While many observers thought there would be a flurry of trades leading into the draft (and there still might be), is it just a matter of one deal happening that could set off a domino effect?

“Again, it’s a very fluid situation and sometimes, things like that happen,” said Cheveldayoff. “A lot of times, names are bandied about, where nothing ever happens. That’s the nature of this time. Things can seem very slow and pick up very quickly, but things can also be deceiving in that there might be lots of things going on and then nothing does (happen).”

Cheveldayoff said the players he’s meeting with include players that will be selected beyond the first round.

“There are interesting players throughout the different rounds, not just the first round,” said Cheveldayoff. “Certainly a lot of attention is focused on potential first round players, but the unpredictability of this year’s draft, and any draft in general, you have to be prepared to know the players in many different areas.”

The Jets currently hold six picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the only one missing is the fourth round selection they sent to the Washington Capitals last summer as part of the trade for Winkler product Eric Fehr.

Here’s where the Winnipeg Jets are picking as of right now:

First round: Ninth overall

Second round: 39th overall

Third round: 70th overall

Fourth round: No pick

Fifth round: 130th overall

Sixth round: 160th overall

Seventh round: 190th overall

Pearn hired by Jets

- June 14th, 2012

MONTREAL — The Winnipeg Jets are bolstering their coaching staff with the addition of Perry Pearn.

Pearn was officially announced on Thursday afternoon and joins the staff of head coach Claude Noel in what represents a homecoming of sorts, since his first NHL job was as an assistant under Jets bench boss Terry Simpson in 1995-96.

“What made it attractive to me is that I didn’t want to leave the first time,” Pearn said during a conference call. “I look at the ownership in Winnipeg and what happened last year, in terms of how the franchise took off again. Why wouldn’t somebody be very, very interested in Winnipeg?”

Pearn, 61,was unceremoniously fired by the Montreal Canadiens on a game-day last season, but brings with him 16 years of NHL experience, along with spending time in the Western Hockey League and working for Hockey Canada on the International stage.

Pearn is well-respected in hockey circles and seems like a good fit with the current staff.

Speaking of that staff, the Jets also announced they’ve extended the contracts of Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent, Wade Flaherty, Tony Borgford and St. John’s IceCaps assistant coach Mark Morrison.

Noel was asked about what role Pearn might play and who might be on the bench and who might be moved upstairs, but those are things that will all be worked out at a later date.

“This stuff will all get done in due time,” said Noel. “I know you guys are looking for specific answers to specific things, in those regards, but I think I have to allow for the process to take place a little bit and get a better feel for Perry and exactly what he brings to the table.”

Pearn has worked in a variety of roles, but you’d expect part of his job to include working with special teams, which is an area of strength for him.

“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to work with some very, very good coaches,” said Pearn, rattling off a list that includes the late Roger Neilson, Mike Murphy, Craig Ramsay, Tom Renney and Jacques Martin. “That ability to understand that every staff is diferent and you need to create chemistry. Roles are always changing. They change for players and they change for coaches. One of my strengths has been to kind of adapt to the people I work with and make sure their strengths were utilized and my strengths were magnified as much as they could be. Hopefully that’s exactly what I bring to the table in Winnipeg.”

Noel and Pearn hadn’t met before their recent meeting, but both men did their due diligence on the other and heard nothing but great things, making this a logical fit for all parties involved.

Pearn has a daughter that lives in Winnipeg and has long-time relationships with both general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (whom Pearn coached) and assistant GM Craig Heisinger.

“People here in our organization know him and he came highly recommended from a lot of people,” said Noel. “The biggest thing that Perry and I had when him and I met and what was very important to me was does he have chemistry to fit in not only with myself, but with our staff down here and the management staff upstairs. Clearly for me, the chemistry was real good. He’s well-spoken, he’s intelligent, he has a lot of hockey knowledge and a lot of hockey experience.”

 

Slater stays with Jets

- June 14th, 2012

MONTREAL — From where we sit, bringing back Jim Slater was a no-brainer for the Winnipeg Jets.

Not only was Slater coming off his most productive season as a NHLer, he frequently showcased the intangibles required to help the Jets in their process of trying to cultivate a culture of winning — and say so long to the culture of losing that manifested itself into the Atlanta Thrashers.

On the flip side, Slater was clear from the beginning, even dating back to the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline, that he wanted to remain with the Jets and that he saw a future with them.

There’s always the thought that Slater could have left a little money on the table by waiting to see what unrestricted free agency might bring, but that doesn’t always work out for players. Occasionally, they get a raise but the fit simply isn’t there. Slater also got very involved in the community and likes the city, so that’s a bonus for him as well.

Staying here makes sense for Slater since he knows exactly what his role is and already has the trust and respect of his head coach Claude Noel, who isn’t afraid to lean on him in important situations.

General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff admitted during a conference call on Wednesday that he had an opportunity to move Slater (likely for draft picks or prospects) at the deadline, just like he had with pending UFA Johnny Oduya, but Slater was deemed too valuable and kept in the mix, with the hope that a deal could be struck. Mission accomplished on that front.

Cheveldayoff and company have talked openly about the vision of moving forward with players of strong character and Slater certainly fits that mould.

Giving him a three-year deal makes sense for both sides, as Slater gets the security he covets and he gets a deserved raise but at a reasonable cap hit of $1.6 million per season.

Slater’s linemate Tanner Glass told colleague Paul Friesen he’s closing in on a deal as well and we’d expect it to be a multiyear (two or three) pact for between $900,000 and $1.2 million per season.

Slater also might be simply finding his stride.

Thanks to his strong skating ability, he’s able to create plenty of chances and might one day surpass the 13 goals he scored this season.

You could also make the argument that Slater’s leadership is as important as what he contributes on the ice. He’s a quiet leader with an excellent work ethic that should come in with even more confidence after suiting up for Team USA at the recent World Hockey Championship.

“Anytime you get to one, represent your country and two, get to play on a big stage where there are big stakes involved, it’s a good thing and a good thing for those players — certainly a feather in their cap to be asked to be a part of that group,” said Cheveldayoff. “I believe he played a leadership part with that group. We’re happy he wanted to stay with us and that we were able to get this deal done.”

Slater made it clear that he has high hopes for the Jets next season.

“Obviously, expectations are to come into camp with this team and prepare for a long season and a long season definitely is making the playoffs and going far,” he said. “Watching the playoffs this year, you know that if you can get into the playoffs, anybody has a chance to win. Our No. 1 goal is to have a consistent season all the way through and just be there in the end when the playoffs get started.”

Watching teams like the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils and eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings make the final gives teams like the Jets hope.

“You look at the whole season and races were tight throughout both conferences,” said Slater. “There’s so much parity throughout the league and anybody can win. This just solidifies it with LA winning after squeaking into the playoffs.

“That’s what makes the league so fun and the game so fun to watch, nobody is going to have any cakewalks through the season or the playoffs.”

We’d expect negotiations to continue to heat up on several fronts leading into July 1, but much of the work over the next week for the Jets revolves around the NHL Entry Draft.

Not sure if I see a true blockbuster in their future, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Jets make a move of consequence.