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Enstrom part of plan

Jets sign defenceman through 2017-18 season for reported $28.75M

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CUT to the quick over the recent unsavoury off-ice antics of a couple of their core players, the Winnipeg Jets sounded all the more determined Friday to turn it into mere background noise.

In announcing a five-year contract extension for defenceman Toby Enstrom that takes the 27-year-old Swede to the end of 2017-18, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was in his philosophical pulpit preaching the franchise's big-picture approach.

"I know from our perspective, when I sat down with him at our year-end meetings, the only thing that Toby conveyed to us was that he wants to win," Cheveldayoff said Friday. "The passion he has to ultimately win is what drives him.

"When we talked about all the different things we have going, our beliefs, our philosophies, that wasn't so much to convince him but essentially to tell him, 'This is how we plan for things to unfold, and we would like you to be a big part of it.' "

Two weeks ago, during the Jets development camp, Enstrom was here from Sweden to attend a golf tournament, and he and his agent, Don Baizley, took time to meet with the Jets brass.

That was the genesis of a very quick resolution to this deal.

"Mark Chipman was in the meeting with us, and Toby and he brought along the sentiments of David Thomson... and anyone who knows Mark, they hear the passion, and it's a genuine passion," Cheveldayoff said. "This is something we're building for the long term.

"There's a long-term commitment from ownership, and to hear it out of my mouth, that's one thing. But when you hear those commitments and words from ownership, it speaks volumes to players.

"They love the community, they love the fans and obviously now with Toby committing, they're showing their love as well."

Cheveldayoff was showing Enstrom plenty of love on Friday, aside from the cash commitment reported to be $28.75 million. Enstrom's cap hit remains at $3.75 million for the coming season and then jumps to $5.75 million for the remaining five years.

Cheveldayoff called the small-ish defenceman an extremely smart hockey player and praised his skills and hockey sense.

The Jets have captain Andrew Ladd (four years), defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (four), goalie Ondrej Pavelec (five) and now Enstrom in deals with some length.

"They believe in me, and I really appreciate that they want me to stay, first of all," Enstrom said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "It went pretty quick. We got this agreement in a short time.

"They want to go somewhere with this team. That's one of the big reasons I signed. They want to win."

There was some speculation at the end of the season that Enstrom wasn't entirely happy about the first season in Winnipeg.

That's not what the quiet-spoken blue-liner conveyed Friday.

"The move to Winnipeg was fun and I like what we have going on there. I really like it up there. Playing in front of all the fans in that city made me want to stay. I feel that we have something good going on, and I want to be a part of it."

Enstrom was among the majority of Jets defencemen who missed significant time because of injury.

After overcoming a broken collarbone in the first half, Enstrom finished with 62 games played, six goals and 33 points. He was plus-six playing the majority of his time with Byfuglien, when both were in the lineup.

Restricted free agent Evander Kane, 21 next week, remains a front-burner negotiation for the franchise and is believed to be considering a long-term offer from the team.

If Enstrom's signing is any indication, Cheveldayoff is likely to start looking at other potential key free agents next summer, the likes of defencemen Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2012 C3

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