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Nobody wants to leave 'Peg

All potential free agents want to wear same uni next season

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Ondrej Pavelec and Evander Kane -- two critical Winnipeg Jets building blocks and restricted free agents -- stood across from each other in the club's dressing room Sunday, simultaneously answering the same questions about the same subject:

Namely, the status of contract talks with the club about long-term futures and putting down roots.

Predictably, both players were short on specifics but spoke glowingly about their first experience in Winnipeg and with a new NHL ownership group.

"It's been amazing. I'm really happy I could be part of it," said Pavelec. "It's been fun to play in front of those fans.

"We'll see what happens. I had fun here. I like it here. I feel very comfortable here. I would like to stay here, but you never know what's going to happen.

"I think the team is really good and we're going in a good direction. I like the city, I like the fans and it's been a good season. Of course we're disappointed we didn't make (the playoffs), but the organization did everything to help us get comfortable here."

Pavelec threw up some solid numbers this season on a team that struggled defensively, surrendering an average of 2.95 goals per game, 26th in the NHL.

The 24-year-old product of Kladno in the Czech Republic finished with a 29-28-9 record, a .906 save percentage and 2.91 goals-against average.

Kane, meanwhile, set a career high with 30 goals and 57 points and was a team-best plus-11.

"Playing in a Canadian market and playing in front of these fans every night definitely made it fun to come to the rink," said Kane. "I really enjoyed playing in the MTS Centre and with this group of guys. It's disappointing not to make the playoffs, but at the same time I thought there were a lot of positives with the season."

Asked about contract talks, Kane added: "We're going to have see what happens and sit down and talk with my agent. That's why I pay them the big money. There's a lot going on with the new CBA and all that kind of stuff."

The Jets have two other restricted free agents in Spencer Machacek and Eric Fehr and seven unrestricted free agents: forwards Kyle Wellwood, Jim Slater, Tanner Glass and Tim Stapleton, defencemen Randy Jones and Mark Flood and goaltender Chris Mason.

Here are the thoughts of some of those players Sunday:

Tanner Glass:

"It's up in the air right now. We haven't talked yet at all, but I anticipate us speaking in the near future here. I'd like to be back. I'd like to be here for a few years, I don't want to go one year at a time like I've been doing... it makes for stressful summers and it's tough on the wife. I'd like to get a couple years wherever I am and hopefully it's here.

"I really enjoyed playing here. It's been a first-class organization."

Jim Slater

"I've nothing bad to say about the team. Definitely the management here, they want to win and will do anything to make it that way. That's obviously very appealing. I know these guys very well, been with them my whole career. That's obviously another plus. Hopefully it's something we can talk about in the summer."

Kyle Wellwood:

"Coming to Winnipeg, they said we think you can play and we have some spots here and you're going to get an opportunity. I ended up getting a chance to play with some good players. If you're going to get a nice deal, you're going to sign it. Everything's important. If you have a good season, you want to be part of something and you want a commitment that goes both ways."

Chris Mason:

"I loved it, the whole experience. I feel very fortunate to have been part of everything. The only thing that I can say I didn't like about this year was I would have liked to have played more. But the situation with Pav (Pavelec) here, I understand. All in all, I loved being here and I would definitely like to come back. It's just a matter if I'm personally willing to concede and hang it up and be a backup goalie. There's nothing wrong with that, but that's the decision I'm going to make this off-season.

"I'm not a young gaffer by any means. It's the decision I have to make. Is it my last kick at getting playing time, or do I come back here, a place I'd love to be in? That's the only decision I have to make. I was proud to be a Winnipeg Jet."

 

-- with files from Tim Campbell

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2012 C3

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