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Jets ink Kane to six-year, $31.5M deal

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They waited until the absolute last second before an NHL player lockout was imposed Saturday night but left-winger Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets joined the flurry of pre-work-stoppage contract signings.

After putting a six-year deal worth about $29 million on the table months ago, the Jets had only a cold shoulder to show for their talks with the Kane camp until the sides agreed to a six-year, $31.5 million contract at the last moment Saturday.

Assuming there is hockey this season, that will keep Kane under contract to the Jets until 2018, when he will be 27.

The cap hit of the deal will be $5.25 million, the team’s largest to this point for one player in the season to come.

The deal also bumps the Jets just above the old salary floor of $54.2 million to about $56.9 million.

It is unknown what either the cap or the floor will be on the other side of the lockout.

"I’m really happy we were able to get a deal done," Kane said on a late-night conference call with reporters just minutes before the lockout and roster and transaction freezes went into effect. "I’m obviously very excited about it and I’m grateful that Winnipeg took that leap of faith and was able to make that kind of commitment.

"It was definitely a very professionally done negotiation. Better late than never. I’m excited about it and I believe the Winnipeg Jets are as well."

The spate of last-minute signings in the NHL this week have opened both the players and owners’ sides to criticism about the hypocrisy of throwing around millions one minute then going into a serious labour dispute the next.

"You can look at it both ways," Kane said. "I think it’s more just business as usual and players and owners and GMs working out deals as the rules are right now.

"I’m fortunate to have got a deal done today. It just so happens it’s an hour before the lockout. Not too much further to say on that note."

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the Jets were no late-comers to this signing.

"I think it’s still about managing your budget and managing where things are at within your own organization," he said. "You have financial allocations now and moving forward.

"I can only speak for our team. We have been working on this, irrespective of any deadline. We’ve been operating as business as usual and we’ve worked on these negotiations, started with a meeting at the draft with Evander’s representatives all the way through.

"The timing... the work and the foundation has been laid for over two months now."

Kane said he’ll have mixed feelings about matters today and acknowledged Winnipeg fans who have been buzzing him this summer on Twitter about the negotiations.

"It’s bittersweet," he said. "You want to play hockey but at the same I’m kind of on Cloud 9.

"I’m looking forward to playing in front of the great fans of Winnipeg. They’ve been tweeting me and letting me know how they feel so it’s great to get something done."

Kane, in three NHL seasons, went from 14 goals to 19 and then 30 last year in the team’s debut in Winnipeg. The fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft had four game-winners and 27 assists to go with his 30 goals for the Jets.

"At the age that he’s at, we think there’s tremendous potential and room for growth," Cheveldayoff said. "We just locked up one of our young players for years to come.

"Lots of players of his age are just breaking into the league."

The Kane deal was the final contract check mark for the Jets, giving them all their roster players under contract heading into the lockout and hopefully the season.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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