November 23, 2017

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New deals for Jets GM Chevy, head coach Maurice mere formality

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks about his new contract in media scrum at the Bell MTS Iceplex Thursday.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff speaks about his new contract in media scrum at the Bell MTS Iceplex Thursday.

Anyone shocked by the contract extensions handed to Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice hasn’t been paying attention since the NHL team touched down here six years ago.

News of the signings leaked out Wednesday but the organization made things official Thursday, locking up the two men charged with guiding the direction of the hockey team to multi-year extensions — considered mere formalities as both were entering the final years of their deals with the Jets.

Neither the length of the contracts nor financial terms were released, although Jets co-owner Mark Chipman described the GM's contract as longer than Maurice's deal.

"Kevin's is more reflective of a general manager's contract, which typically carries longer term. And Paul's would be reflective of a typical head coaching contract. They don't necessarily correspond," he said. "Call (Maurice's deal) medium. It's one that reflects the amount of confidence that Chevy and I have in him."

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Anyone shocked by the contract extensions handed to Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice hasn’t been paying attention since the NHL team touched down here six years ago.

News of the signings leaked out Wednesday but the organization made things official Thursday, locking up the two men charged with guiding the direction of the hockey team to multi-year extensions — considered mere formalities as both were entering the final years of their deals with the Jets.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice speaks about his new contract at media scrum Bell MTS Iceplex Thursday.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice speaks about his new contract at media scrum Bell MTS Iceplex Thursday.

Neither the length of the contracts nor financial terms were released, although Jets co-owner Mark Chipman described the GM's contract as longer than Maurice's deal.

"Kevin's is more reflective of a general manager's contract, which typically carries longer term. And Paul's would be reflective of a typical head coaching contract. They don't necessarily correspond," he said. "Call (Maurice's deal) medium. It's one that reflects the amount of confidence that Chevy and I have in him."

Typically, NHL coaches garner three- or four-year deals, while GMs usually sign on for a minimum of five.

Chipman said it's been True North's way to keep the nuts and bolts of contracts under wraps.

"Some of those things are personal. I want to respect the wishes of the people under contract. You asked if it's short or medium, call (the lengths) medium, but it's meaningful. Our fans should understand that we have confidence in these people on a multi-year basis and I think that's sufficient."

Building a stable franchise and guaranteeing consistency has been the True North ownership group’s mantra since the franchise relocated from Atlanta for the 2011-12 campaign.

Despite only one post-season appearance — a loss to Anaheim in four straight games in 2015 — Chipman said Cheveldayoff remains the right man for the GM’s job.

"I had been around the game long enough to understand that we weren’t going to buy a distressed asset and turn it into a Stanley Cup championship team overnight. It was going to take time… that was the basis upon which we started working," said Chipman. "I think he’s done a superb job of not only drafting — I think he would be considered among the best of his peers over the time frame that he’s been a GM and drafting… but he’s done an equally fine job of developing those players and not bringing them along too fast."

Cheveldayoff has preached patience in Winnipeg, implementing a draft-and-develop scheme that has stocked the shelves of the club and its AHL farm team, the Manitoba Moose. Under his direction, the scouting staff has selected players such as forwards Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Adam Lowry and defencemen Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, who have become cornerstones of the franchise.

Last season, a young Winnipeg lineup was hit with a spate of injuries and suffered through the goaltending troubles of the duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, finishing ninth in the Western Conference (40-35-7), seven points out of the wild-card spot.

During the off-season, he plugged a couple of huge holes, signing veteran goalie Steve Mason and blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov to multi-year deals. He also added 36-year-old forward Matt Hendricks to give the club's penalty-killing unit and faceoff production a boost.

Cheveldayoff said ownership has provided him with the time and resources to get the club to the cusp of doing something special.

"It’s really underscored in a lot of different organizations. The process of getting to the point where we’re at is deemed an expense. Here, everything we’ve done from Day 1 has been viewed as an investment, a long-term investment," he said. "Fortunately, for me I’ve had the faith and confidence and commitment (from ownership) to make decisions that are in the best short-, medium- and long-term interest of this franchise."

Chevelayoff said he hasn’t wavered in his belief that Maurice is the right coach to shepherd the squad to new heights. And the players themselves were steadfast in their support of the guy behind the bench, he added.

"When you talk with the veteran players… you talk to them about his communication skills, his honesty, his openness, his frankness, his Xs and Os are very good and the human side of the game is exceptional," he said. "We have a lot of work to do as an organization here. We feel very strongly about the group we’ve built and we’re very excited to have Paul leading this group moving forward."

Maurice was entering the final year of a four-year contract extension he signed in April 2014. He said the new deal took no time to complete.

"We had talked this summer about it and just finished it up recently. It took all of about a minute to get done. I'm excited," said Maurice. "Professionally, I'm excited about this team and where it's going, but to be honest I'm most excited for my family. The kids, I've moved them an awful lot and they love it here. They've got friends here."

He joined the team midway through the 2013-14 campaign after Claude Noel was relieved of his head coaching duties. The Jets were on a five-game losing skid when Maurice came aboard. He accumulated an 18-12-5 record in 35 games and was rewarded with a four-year deal after that season.

Overall, he has coached the Jets to a 136-112-33 record in 281 games.

Maurice said he's very optimistic about the coming NHL campaign, but knows there are areas that need tackling.

"We want to be incrementally better in everything we do," he said. "In general, it’s the defensive half of our game (that has to improve). Specifically, the penalty killing has to improve, our rush-against chances… we give up too much and it’s a function not just of being tighter defensively but also a function of where you are in your season. You have to build that confidence early and part of it’s by winning. That solves a lot of things."

Jets captain Blake Wheeler said locking up Maurice was absolutely the right decision.

"He's been the best coach that I've had. I've learned the most under him, in a lot of different ways. There's a lot more that goes into it than just what you see on the ice," he said. "The proof is there. Look at my game when Paul got here to where it is now. Look at Mark Scheifele, look at Jacob Trouba. And then you're just starting to see the improvement in Nik Ehlers, Patrick Laine.

"These guys are young players that are growing in a short period of time, so when you're giving a coach an incredible amount of young talent, you can't necessarily judge based on wins and losses all the time. I don't think that's what's been asked of Paul here in the last couple of years. It's been developing these guys to get to the point where we can have a season like hopefully we're going to have this year. The proof is there. He's done a hell of a job."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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History

Updated on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 9:46 AM CDT: Corrects time that Jets rookies skate

11:47 AM: adds quotes

12:39 PM: Updates

2:18 PM: Updates photos

5:45 PM: Adds fact box and full write through

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