Jets sign Oakbank centre, plus forward Matthias and D-man Strait

Howden coming home

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The Winnipeg Jets stayed on the periphery of Friday’s opening day of free agency, spending less than one per cent of the hundreds of millions of dollars that went flying around the NHL.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/07/2016 (2343 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets stayed on the periphery of Friday’s opening day of free agency, spending less than one per cent of the hundreds of millions of dollars that went flying around the NHL.

Teams spent in excess of US$600 million on the open market, according to Sportsnet, handing out term and cash that in the opening hour exceeded $330 million in commitments.

The Jets waited a while, then put three players under contract Friday. They landed centre-winger Shawn Matthias on a two-year deal totalling US$4.3 million, brought hometown product Quinton Howden of Oakbank into the fold on a two-way, one-year deal at US$650,000 and added defenceman Brian Strait for one year and US$600,000.

Paul J. Bereswill / The Associated Press files ‘My mom dropped the phone when I called her,’ Quinton Howden says of signing a one-year contract Friday with the Winnipeg Jets.

It all adds up to some depth but nothing in the way of the team’s front-line or impact players — which is what most people expected.

“We addressed some needs today and feel very comfortable with what we came up with at the end of the day,” said general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

A scenario that was rumoured — even feared by some — that the Jets would be facing an expensive offer sheet on RFA defenceman Jacob Trouba, never materialized.

“Rumours are part of the game,” Cheveldayoff said. “The Canadian market and the Twitter world that we’re in, if you sit and worry and watch, do all those things, you won’t have time to do your job. Nothing’s really changed on getting all our RFAs signed.”

That includes Trouba, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Joel Armia.

The most experienced player the Jets added Friday was Matthias, who has played 479 NHL games for four teams.

The 28-year-old former second-round pick (2006) of the Detroit Red Wings started last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After 51 games, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and played 20 more games for them. He totalled 28 points last season.

“I don’t think we’re focusing on him at the centre position,” Cheveldayoff said, adding Matthias can add to the Jets’ penalty killing. “He has played centre but I wouldn’t say where he’s pencilled in yet. That’s for (head coach) Paul (Maurice) to decide. We’ve got some very good options there with (Mathieu) Perreault, (Alex) Burmistrov. With Shawn, it’s good to have options.”

Matthias, who was playing golf when he talked to reporters on a quick conference call Friday afternoon, was overjoyed with the deal.

Julio Cortez / The Associated Press files Brian Strait joins the Jets after three-plus seasons with the New York Islanders.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started. It’s great to be back in Canada playing. I played with the Leafs. I played in Vancouver. The fans in Canada, how passionate they are, you just feed off that.

“Winnipeg’s a place I’ve played in and it’s so loud and the fans are going crazy. I just can’t wait to get started and hear how loud it is  in that building and finally play for them and not against them,” he said.

“I cannot stress enough how happy I am to be here and how pumped I really am.”

Howden’s story took a twist earlier in the week when the Florida Panthers, who drafted him 25th overall in 2010, did not give him a qualifying offer, making him a free agent.

“A young player, had a good year last year playing in the NHL,” Cheveldayoff said. “I believe there’s more to give, more to grow with him. There is more to his ceiling yet.”

Howden was more subdued in his comments than Matthias, likely because he’s had a week all over the map.

“Yeah, I loved Florida,” Howden said. “But they’re going a different way now and they wanted some more depth on their team. It sucks in a way, but this was a good opportunity for me to move and start a new chapter at home.

“I talked to my agent. We had a couple of opportunities but as of this morning the Jets came through and seemed like they wanted me and that’s what I wanted.”

It sounded as if his family was thrilled.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press files Shawn Matthias signed a two-year, US$4.3-million deal with the Jets.

“My mom dropped the phone when I called her,” he said. “My dad was working and I told him and he just kept asking, ‘Are you serious?’ I think he thought I was joking. They’ve always kind of mentioned, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to come home?’

“I think everybody’s pretty excited.”

Strait, a 28-year-old from the Boston area, just finished up a three-year deal with the New York Islanders and the depth he’ll bring is largely because he’s a left-handed shot. The Jets are thin on the left side.

“With Brian Strait, he’s a player that has played at the NHL level for a period of time now,” Cheveldayoff said of Strait’s 151 games in the last three seasons. “He gives us some different options with depth and the competition side of things.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca
scott.billeck@freepress.mb.ca

 

History

Updated on Friday, July 1, 2016 2:41 PM CDT: Adds Howden info, adds audio stream, adds new photo

Updated on Friday, July 1, 2016 3:50 PM CDT: Adds Howden info, adds audio stream, adds new photo, updates with Matthias quotes

Updated on Friday, July 1, 2016 4:06 PM CDT: Adds Howden info, adds audio stream, adds new photo, updates with Matthias quotes, adds Strait info.

Updated on Friday, July 1, 2016 5:43 PM CDT: Adds audio

Updated on Friday, July 1, 2016 10:35 PM CDT: Adds Howden info, adds audio stream, adds new photo, updates with Matthias quotes, adds Strait info.

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