The Winnipeg Jets have agreed to terms with UFA forward Kyle Wellwood on a one-year deal worth $1.6 million — a nice pay bump after an impressive 2011-12 campaign.
Wellwood, 29, was one of the league’s best bargain signings last year. Without a contract for most of the summer, Wellwood inked a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Jets in early September and proceeded to post 18G-29A-47PTS in 77 games.
He finished third on the team in assists, fourth in goals and fifth in points, all while playing nearly 15 minutes per night.
The former Maple Leaf, Canuck and Shark has appeared in 450 career NHL contests, scoring 220 points. Cool note — the $1.6 million annual salary represents Wellwood’s most lucrative per-season contract since debuting in 2003-04.
Wellwood will rejoin a Winnipeg club that’ll have a different look up front next season. Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky were brought aboard while the likes of Tim Stapleton (KHL) and Tanner Glass (Pittsburgh) were allowed to walk.
For the most part, Russian-born (and other European) stars tend to bolt for more lucrative contracts with the KHL. (Alex Radulov is the most convenient example.) Yet there is a smaller trend forming in the background: depth players – some even from North America – are beginning to view the KHL as viable option as well.
Ken Wiebe reports that (former) Winnipeg Jet Tim Stapleton has agreed in principle to a deal with the KHL’s Dinamo-Minsk. Stapleton had easily the best season of his young career in 2011-12, setting career-highs for goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and games played (63).
As mentioned earlier this off-season, Stapleton joins a lower-level exodus that also includes Mats Zuccarello, Erik Christensen, Sami Lepisto and Curtis Sanford. Even former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice decided to give the upstart professional league a shot.
It’s not exactly the sort of raid that will leave NHL teams trembling, but it’s interesting to see marginal players get more bargaining power than they’ve likely ever enjoyed.
Since he’s on his way out of the league for at least a little while, I thought I’d leave you with this random AP photo where it looks like Jeff Skinner is giving him a “DDT.”
The Winnipeg Jets are fighting for a playoff spot. They’re well into the mix in the Southeast Division race and are threats for the eighth spot in the East as well. For this team, however, they could be looking at this season as a “last roundup” of sorts.
As Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports, the Jets have seven players that could be unrestricted free agents after this season. Jim Slater, Chris Mason, Tanner Glass, Kyle Wellwood, Tim Stapleton, Randy Jones and Mark Flood. While they could be seeking new contracts, they’d much rather try to get the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 in Atlanta as Slater tells Tait.
“I like that… less distraction is better,” said Slater. “Obviously we’ve got a job to do here and we’ve got to put our best foot forward day in and day out. That’s what the summers are for, those negotiations, and right now it’s about getting this team to a place where we want to be.”
The Jets have played well in their first season after relocation and while a lot of those players may not be attention grabbers on the free agent market, getting this team into the postseason will do nothing but help their case for a new deal.
Winnipeg Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec might’ve lost 5-4 in overtime to Philadelphia last night, but the defeat wasn’t on him. The 24-year-old netminder made a career-high 50 saves, including this stunner on Flyers forward Jakub Voracek midway through the third period:
According to NHL.com, Pavelec was distraught after the loss, pacing the hallways and refusing to speak to the media. Thankfully, his Jets teammates and coaches were able to fill in the blanks.
“[Pavelec] was excellent,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “He gave us a chance to win. I feel bad for him because, obviously, we spoiled a great performance on his part and I’m sure he’s frustrated.”
“Pavelec was unbelievable,” head coach Claude Noel said. “Say what you want, goalies like that, you can win championships with goalies like that, with goaltending like that.”
“Right after the game, I kind of went up to him,” forward Tim Stapleton said of Pavelec, “and you could tell how frustrated he was. It’s obviously not his fault.”
Pavelec — who has been Winnipeg’s MVP this season — is now 22-20-6 on the season with a 2.71 GAA and .911 save percentage. He also has three shutouts.
It’s not always how it’s drawn up, but for the Devils on their incredible streak in the second half a win is a win. Tonight, the Devils got down 2-0 early to Atlanta thanks to goals from Tim Stapleton and Chris Thorburn. That would be all Atlanta would see the rest of the night though as the Devils went on to storm back and win 4-2.
Travis Zajac scored late in the first to cut the lead to 2-1 and the momentum gained from that goal carried into the second where Patrik Elias would tie the game up. With the score 2-2 going into the third, rookie Jacob Josefson would give the Devils the lead at 4:14 of the period while Ilya Kovalchuk would add an empty net goal late to seal the deal. Atlanta thought they tied the game with under 40 seconds to go as Evander Kane swatted a puck out of the air and past Martin Brodeur but it was waved off for being hit with a high stick.
The win draws New Jersey even with Atlanta and Toronto in points with 70, but the Devils have the tie-breakers against both teams and sit in 10th in the East. At one point this season, the Devils were by far the worst team in the NHL and now they’re within points of the eighth spot. While the Devils have played gutsy and tough hockey and winning lots of close games, things are about to get a lot harder for them down the stretch.
In the Devils final 13 games, they’ll be on the road for seven of them and dealing with some of the East’s best teams. Here’s how things shake out.
3/30: NY Islanders
4/9: @NY Rangers
Certainly with the way the Devils have been playing and executing anything is possible and it’s tough to bet against them, but with nine of the next 13 games coming against teams that are ahead of them in the standings and not much room for error for the Devils the rest of the way, it’s going to be tough. Adding in that they’ve still got five sets of back-to-back games things are going to get stressful over the next few weeks for the Devils.
They’ve persevered over John MacLean’s poor coaching, Jamie Langenbrunner’s questionable presence, and one of the worst starts to a season in recent memory but they’re still in it and they’re hotter than anyone in the league. Bet against them at your own risk.