Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fists of fury back on board

Jets sign gritty winger Thorburn to three-year deal worth $3.6M

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Winnipeg Jets' Chris Thorburn (right) dukes it with St. Louis Blues' Ryan Reaves last season.

JEFF ROBERSON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets' Chris Thorburn (right) dukes it with St. Louis Blues' Ryan Reaves last season.

Piecing together an NHL team is about more than finding the guys who can score, defend and keep the puck out of the net.

There are also intangibles in play, stuff that doesn't necessarily show up on the stats sheet.

And Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and coach Paul Maurice clearly feels there's room on the depth chart for veteran grinder/plugger/fighter Chris Thorburn, who was inked to new three-year contract worth $3.6 million on the eve of NHL free agency.

"There was a tremendous amount of interest in Thorbs from other teams," said Cheveldayoff. "If you see the signings out there by teams, the money and the term... he's big, he can skate and he can play left side, play the right side. And he's someone who if he plays six minutes one night and 12 the next, he's not going to be upset playing six minutes again the night after.

"You only have to go back to remembering the day he stood up for his teammates, the day he fought Zdeno Chara. "I talked to several other GMs who I speculated might have had interest in him, and it was interesting, because they said, 'We always got the sense that he wanted to come back to Winnipeg,' " added Cheveldayoff.

"It was kind of true to form from the initial conversation. We just had to find the right level of term and money to make it happen."

The 29-year-old played in 55 games last year, scoring two goals and adding nine assists. He now has 523 NHL games under his belt with Winnipeg/Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Thorburn's agent was busy fielding calls in the days leading up to free agency, but when the Jets stepped up late Monday with a new offer the veteran winger was quick to put his name on a new deal.

"It's something I've never been through before, as far as testing the market," said Thorburn in a phone interview from his in-laws' farm in upstate New York.

"This was all fresh and new to me and it was definitely a roller-coaster ride, especially that five-day grace period that teams were allowed to talk to my agent.

"Familiarity was a factor, plus the direction and the drive to get better. Plus, coach Maurice coming in definitely played a big part in my decision."

Again, it comes back to a role a guy can play off the ice -- and the coaches who value that dynamic.

"Being a good guy and a team guy is something I definitely take pride in," Thorburn said.

"I've definitely seen the other side, with players that can stir up the locker-room in a negative way. I believe your locker-room carries onto the ice and the stronger you can help make it makes it better overall. The closer you are, the better the relationships you have for each other, the more you want to do for them, protect them and all that stuff."

The Jets also announced Monday they had re-signed veteran defenceman Adam Pardy, while making qualifying offers to six players to retain their negotiation rights. They are forwards John Albert, Eric O'Dell, Patrice Cormier and Carl Klingberg, defenceman Ben Chiarot and goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2014 C2

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