Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets pay Bogo $36M to stay seven years

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Zach Bogosian isn't a complicated man. He's a cowboy-boots-and-jeans guy, an outdoorsman as comfortable outfitted head to toe in camouflage and with a rifle in his hand as on the ice plastering somebody into the end boards while wearing the colours of the Winnipeg Jets.

So there was really no need to play a whole lot of games when the Jets and his agent first sat down to begin negotiating a new contract -- even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for this Friday in Toronto drawing close.

He wanted to be here long-term and the Jets saw him as a franchise cornerstone just beginning to showcase his skill set. The result of that mutual admiration came Monday when the club announced he had signed a new seven-year contract worth $36 million.

"I was pretty confident it was going to get done," Bogosian said in a conference call. "Obviously, I don't know that much about arbitration. I've heard it's not the greatest thing to go to. I was just happy to get it done. It was very humbling to know that Winnipeg wanted me to stay there for a long time as much as I did. It was mutual that both sides wanted to do a long-term deal from the get-go.

"I've made it clear since my first time being in Winnipeg that it's a place I've wanted to be for a long time. I'm just real happy that Winnipeg believed in me and gave me another chance to prove myself... I didn't exactly have the best start to my career in Atlanta, and obviously moving up to Winnipeg gave me a new chance to play in a hockey market and play in a hockey town.

"That's where the term came in. It was definitely a no-brainer for me to want to stay there for a long time."

Bogosian's signing wraps up a rather significant week of work for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was also able to ink Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler to new long-term contracts -- for a combined 18 years totalling $93.1 million -- before they went to arbitration. The Jets now have 11 players signed to long-term deals.

The key now for Bogosian, Little, Wheeler & Co. is to reward management's faith in them with a push into the Stanley Cup playoffs and beyond.

"A lot of people forget there's a lot of young guys who have big roles on the team," Bogosian said. "Everyone's growing up together. I know it's clich© to say, but we have a lot of good players on our team. It'll be a good challenge for us, and I think this group can do good things moving forward.

"Signing the guys that we did and getting the guys we did in free agency is obviously going to help. Every year we sit down and talk about our goals. Winning a championship and bringing the cup to Winnipeg would be the No. 1 thing. Moving forward, we're a better team right now."

The Bogosian signing pushed the Jets' 2013-14 payroll to $63,201,357, 10th in the NHL and just shy of the 2013-14 cap of $64.3 million.

Interestingly, Cheveldayoff hinted he might not be done tinkering yet.

"It's a little bit of a down time right now," he said. "I think, from the conversation standpoint with other general managers, it will certainly start picking up later in August and you'll see if there's opportunities for a trade or two or a tweak or two.

"When you have your core locked up with a lot of players you know you are going to be moving forward with, you can now start looking where are the little holes I can try and improve upon or look at."

Asked to evaluate the club's handiwork in the off-season, Cheveldayoff deftly avoided -- as per usual -- spitting out anything that might come across as the least bit cocky. With good reason: For all the money and term offered to this team's core, it's still looking for the franchise's first playoff berth since 2006-07.

"The real evaluation process starts when you drop the puck," Cheveldayoff said. "No awards, no trophies, no wins or losses happen in June, July, August and September. We're not sitting here trying to say, 'This is great! This is great!' This is the process.

"We worked hard trying to get the stability. It was very exciting in the conversations with the different players and representatives and the positive vibes about wanting to commit to the Winnipeg Jets and what we have going in this direction."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 D1

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Updated on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:37 AM CDT: replaces photo

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