A bit of a National Hockey League nomad for much of his career, Kyle Wellwood seems to have found a home in Winnipeg with the Jets.
The club announced this afternoon they have agreed to terms on a one-year $1.6 million deal with the 29-year-old forward, who became an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The signing quickly squelched internet rumours this week about a possible exit to Switzerland — Wellwood said that was never a consideration — and hammered home Jet GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s comment on Thursday that the team was still very much in negotiations with his agent.
"Originally I was searching for more years (on his deal) and the Jets offered me a two-year deal, but after thinking about it I just felt most comfortable with a one-year deal," said Wellwood in a conference call from his home base in Windsor. "To have this out of the way and be able to come into an environment I already know and have some familiarity, I’m really excited.
"I felt like it was a positive building year for me last year. Talking to Winnipeg before the signing (last year) I wasn’t sure what kind of fit it was going to be for me, but for them to get (Alexei) Ponikarovsky, a big left winger who has got some skill, and adding (Olli) Jokinen up the middle I really got excited about coming to the team again and making a run at the playoffs.
"You get to a be a free agent and you get to look at all the teams and I was looking at Winnipeg and they seem to really do some great things, they’ve got some great young players coming up and they’ve added a couple of pieces which we really needed, especially if we want to improve our road record which was our big downfall last year. Having the young guys coming up like (Spencer) Machacek and (Mark) Scheifele and some bigger D-men bodes well in the future, too."
Wellwood is coming off a career season in which he registered 18 goals and 29 assists and finished fifth on the team in scoring while playing all three forward positions in a variety of situations. It’s that versatility, and his hockey IQ, which endeared him to head coach Claude Noel. Wellwood said Friday he hopes to improve his fitness this summer to be available to play in even more minutes for the Jets this season, after averaging 14:57 of ice time last year.
"It comes down to my fitness level," said Wellwood. "Claude used me really well last year, but he couldn’t use me more because I wasn’t as productive when he tried to increase my minutes… I’d get tired. For me, having a healthy offseason here (he had an appendectomy last offseason) and getting in really good shape I should be able to play more minutes and handle it."
Wellwood has played in 450 career NHL games with Toronto, Vancouver, San Jose and Winnipeg and was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the fifth round, 134th overall, in the 2001 NHL entry draft.
Meanwhile, Jets also announced they have signed promising young defenceman Paul Postma to a new one-way contract, one-year deal worth $550,000.
Postma, 23, played in 56 games with the St. John’s IceCaps last season picking up 44 points (13G, 31A), ranking second on the club. He was also voted the IceCaps’ MVP and top defenceman and appeared in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 AHL All-Star Games. Last year he was named to the AHL First All-Star team.
"I’m really happy about the whole contract," said Postma from Calgary. "I couldn’t be more happy. I really want to thank Kevin Cheveldayoff and the whole organization for giving me a chance. Basically it says to me they’re going to give me a really good shot next year and I’m looking forward to contributing to the team and being a big part of it.
"I had a great year and a lot of fun in St. John’s and the coaches really helped me develop more as a player and work on my defensive game. I think I got a lot better. Hopefully this year I’m ready to make a big impact on the team."