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Jets turn focus to filling vacant roster positions

Signing Kane, backup goalie among priorities

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Their most impactful signing of the NHL's unrestricted free-agency period is behind them so now the Winnipeg Jets have turned their concentration to completing their roster business.

Monday, the Jets forged an agreement with centre Olli Jokinen on a two-year contract worth $9 million.

The team expressed early interest in unrestricted free agent Zach Parise but, to listen to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff tell it, he and the Jets were given a polite thank-you handshake and shown the door.

Jokinen will match Jets captain Andrew Ladd as Winnipeg's second-highest-paid forward for the coming season at $4.5 million.

Nik Antropov, in the final year of his contract, will make $4.75 million and as of today will be the team's highest-paid player for 2012-13.

With Jokinen's signing, the Jets have 18 players -- including returning regulars -- under contract for the season ahead.

The total is 11 forwards, six defencemen and one goalie.

Teams are permitted up to 23 roster players during the regular season prior to the trade deadline.

Cheveldayoff's highest remaining priorities are signing left-winger Evander Kane, who's a restricted free agent, and a backup goalie, after Sunday's departure of unrestricted free agent Chris Mason.

Despite apparent fan chatter of trouble, the Jets indicated Tuesday the Kane matter is likely in some temporary hiatus as his representatives, Newport Sports, are in the thick of the Parise matter.

Today, capgeek.com puts the Jets salary number near $48.6 million, leaving the team still $5.6 million to go to get to the league's US$54.2-million salary floor. That number could certainly change as a result of the current labour negotiations.

Kane and a backup goalie for Ondrej Pavelec may eat up most of the current gap to the floor in terms of cap accounting, so the Jets appear to be in good shape to keep shopping if they so desire, to fill out some or all of those other three spots with a combination of forwards and defence.

Simply speculating on that scenario, if the Jets spent a further $6 million on those three other players, they'd still be comfortably within the range of payroll that ownership has said they target, that is, at or somewhere just below the league midpoint. That's $62.2 million the way things stand today.

As far as personnel, it's worth keeping in mind the team may be inclined to give several prospects in their system a hard look in the coming months. That list will surely include AHL all-star Paul Postma and Zach Redmond on defence as well as Spencer Machacek and Ivan Telegin at forward, and maybe even Carl Klingberg.

And nobody's counting out 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele, either.

JETCETERA: A report out of Michigan late Monday, now looking more and more like it was completely baseless, had Jets 2012 first-round pick Jacob Trouba bolting the University of Michigan for big cash from Kitchener of the OHL. Trouba, who will be here for development camp next week, and his family shot down the report on Tuesday, including the invention of the alleged financial windfall, saying Trouba will attend Michigan.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 D2

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