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After spending $93 million in a week, Jets GM says owners ‘committed to building a winner’

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It’s been a busy — and spendy — last seven days for the Winnipeg Jets.

Faced with three key restricted free agents heading to salary arbitration, the club made a big financial commitment by locking up the trio — defenseman Zach Bogosian, forwards Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler — for a combined $93 million.

That dollar figure, said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, is a sign of ownership’s faith in the club.

“Fans in Winnipeg should know that [True North Sports and Entertainment’s] Mark Chipman and David Thomson are committed to building a winner in this city,” Cheveldayoff said in his post-Bogosian contract presser.

“Ownership has shown a commitment to this team.”

That commitment began with re-signing Little last Monday to a five-year, $23.5 million deal.

Little, 25, had seven goals and 25 assists for the Jets in 2013, appearing in all 48 regular-season games and winning a team-high 431 faceoffs. His $4.7 million cap hit was, temporarily, the second highest among forwards on the club, behind only Evander Kane ($5.25 million.)

Temporarily, because Wheeler’s deal was soon to follow.

On Friday, the Jets inked Wheeler to a six-year, $33.6 million deal. The 26-year-old had 19 goals and 41 points in 48 games played in 2013, leading the team in goals while finishing second in points.

Then, today, Winnipeg completed the Bogosian deal — a seven-year, $36 million extension.

Bogosian, 23, had five goals and nine assists in 2013 while averaging 23:07 of ice time in the 33 games he played last season.

The third overall pick in the 2008 draft, Bogosian now joins Wheeler, Kane, Little, Kane and Tobias Enstrom on the list of Jets signed through at least 2017-18.

Cheveldayoff acknowledged the number of similarly-aged players all locked up with similar-type deals.

“If you look at the players we signed here this summer, they are all around the same age,” he explained. “We need to keep growing and pushing.”

While it would’ve been difficult for Winnipeg to either give up or head to salary arbitration with a No. 1 center (Little), its leading goalscorer (Wheeler) and possibly its best defenseman (Bogosian), many are wondering if the Jets have invested too much in a core that, while talented, has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons after moving from Atlanta in 2011.

Cheveldayoff said that nobody can judge these investments until the Jets get back onto the ice next season.

“How close are we [to a Cup]? I don’t know,” he said. “You have to see the product on the ice.

“No awards, no trophies, no wins or losses happen in June, July, August and September. The real evaluation process starts when you drop the puck.”

PHT Morning Skate: Jagr doesn’t understand why Peyton Manning would retire after winning the Super Bowl

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jaromir Jagr doesn’t believe Peyton Manning should retire. (ESPN)

Victor Hedman wrote about “How We Play Hockey in Sweden” for The Players’ Tribune.

–Did the Senators make a smart move by acquiring Dion Phaneuf? (Sportsnet)

–And if you have a Maple Leafs jersey with Phaneuf’s name on the back, the Sens want to dispose of it:

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Rangers and Penguins. (Top of the page)

–A Zoolander tribute to Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. (Puck Daddy)

Steven Stamkos had a run-in with the paparazzi in Montreal. (Bardown)

Sidney Crosby‘s confidence could be dangerous for the rest of the league:

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.