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.