WINNIPEG — When the Winnipeg Jets saw that the Anaheim Ducks didn’t issue pending restricted free-agent centre Mathieu Perreault a qualifying offer on Monday, they sprang into action.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said today that his scouts advised him that Perreault was a player they ought to pursue and a couple of hours into today’s free-agent signings, the Jets had themselves a new centre at an average of $3 million for three years.
“When we had the conversations with his representative this morning, we had Paul Maurice reach out and speak to him,” Cheveldayoff told reporters this afternoon. “They had a great conversation... I know they talked about how Paul wants to play, how he envisions using him and it seemed like a good fit from both sides. We got back to the agent and worked out the deal.”
The addition likely means the Jets will not try to bring back veteran centre Olli Jokinen.
“(Perreault) is 26 years old, he’s someone that put up very good numbers last year,” Cheveldayoff said. Perreault and Jokinen matched point totals last season with 43. “When you start digging into the little things about his game he’s someone who plays with a lot of energy, he excels on the power-play, he’s really good on the face-offs — he’s plus-50 per cent, which is something we can always improve upon — and he’s someone we believe is still trending upward in his development.”
The GM said today the Jets are still nosing around for somebody to help their forward group.
“We’d like to get another top-six forward,” Cheveldayoff said. “That’s something we’re still looking at. Again, are there some options out there? Potentially.”
When he spoke to reporters at the MTS Centre late this afternoon, Cheveldayoff mentioned several times what an asset new coach Paul Maurice has been and is to the organization.
“In our conversations, the one thing that keeps coming through is the name Paul Maurice in talking to a lot of different agents and players,” he said. “We had actually had heard that when some of the players heard we might be talking to them, some of our current players reached out and said, ‘You’d love our coach, you’d love our system and our situation about the organization.’
“Even in talking Perreault’s representative while we were doing the deal, I was fortunate enough to be on the other end of the call and he was talking about the final parameters and spoke glowingly about the organization. That makes us proud.”
And he said that Maurice was instrumental in the Jets’ decision to sign right-winger Chris Thorburn on Monday night. The pending unrestricted free agent got a three-year deal worth $3.6 million.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Cheveldayoff said. “The five-day period ... there was a tremendous amount of interest in Thorbs from other teams. If you see the signings out there by teams, the money and the term ... but 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 and if that doesn’t make an impression on you and a group and know where the player’s heart and passion lies, it’s there.
“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.’ 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.”
- Tim Campbell