He's a big part of the present, both figuratively and literally. And now, Adam Lowry will remain a significant piece of the future for the Winnipeg Jets.

He's a big part of the present, both figuratively and literally. And now, Adam Lowry will remain a significant piece of the future for the Winnipeg Jets.

Lowry, 28, signed a five-year contract extension Friday that will pay him an average annual salary of US$3.25 million. He was set to be a pending unrestricted free agent this summer who would have likely attracted plenty of interest on the open market.

"I think it’s such a good fit. Playing in Winnipeg, being part of this organization for so long. Starting here, being drafted here, it’s one of those things if you have the opportunity to play your whole career with one organization, you want to jump at that opportunity," Lowry said in a late afternoon Zoom call.

"The first chance to go to unrestricted free agency can sometimes be enticing, but knowing the coaching staff here, knowing what the organization’s like, it’s such a hard opportunity to pass up, being able to sign this extension. I know my role in this organization, I love my teammates, I love playing for this team. I’m thrilled I got it done."

"Playing in Winnipeg, we have such a good fan base. The people here are awesome. There are so many things that go into wanting to stay," Lowry said Friday.

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"Playing in Winnipeg, we have such a good fan base. The people here are awesome. There are so many things that go into wanting to stay," Lowry said Friday.

The 6-5, 210-pound shutdown centre wins faceoffs, kills penalties, brings a physical element and adds plenty of steak to a forward core that has all kinds of sizzle. He's enjoying a fine offensive season as well, with eight goals and 12 assists through 44 games. His career-high is 29 points, set in 2016-17 over a full 82 games.

In other words, he's the kind of player who isn't easily replaceable. And the Jets don't have anyone quite like him. There had been rumblings teams like Edmonton or Calgary could come calling this summer, looking to bring the Alberta product home. And he would have been an impressive add for the expansion Seattle Kraken.

However, the Jets have now ensured that won't possible. The extension makes plenty of sense for both sides. Winnipeg is the only NHL market Lowry has known, having been picked in the third round (67th overall) in the inaugural Jets 2.0 draft of 2011. His father, Dave, is also in his first season as an assistant coach with the club.

Now Adam Lowry will remain a significant piece of the future for the Winnipeg Jets.

FRED GREENSLADE / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Now Adam Lowry will remain a significant piece of the future for the Winnipeg Jets.

"I think it starts from top to bottom with this organization. You look at Chipper (Mark Chipman) and the kind of person he is, he’s honest and really committed to winning. You move on down and you look at the move Chevy’s made and the guys he’s been able to sign and lock up long-term. And then you go to the coaching staff and we see their commitment day in and day out," said Lowry.

"And then getting to kind of play with all these elite players and be surrounded by such good people in the organization, that’s important to you. I look at the makeup of our team and really believe we have a great chance to win. We’re given every opportunity, through the management, through the ownership, they treat us very well here and we’re very fortunate in that sense. Playing in Winnipeg, we have such a good fan base. The people here are awesome. There are so many things that go into wanting to stay."

One offshoot of Lowry's signing is it muddies an already intriguing expansion draft issue for Winnipeg. Teams can only protect either one goaltender and eight skaters (any combination of forwards and defencemen), or one goaltender, seven forwards and three blue-liners. The Jets are surely to go the 7/3/1 route rather than 8/1.

Winnipeg already has core pieces locked up in captain Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Andrew Copp (a pending restricted free agent), and now Lowry. That means a young forward like Mason Appleton will likely have to be exposed.

On the blue-line, the Jets will have to choose three of Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Dylan DeMelo and impressive rookie Logan Stanley to protect, leaving the other as a juicy carrot for the Kraken. As much as it would pain them, Stanley is the likely candidate.

If you're Kraken general manager Ron Francis, bringing in one of Appleton or Stanley would be a nice start. Of course, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could try to swing a deal that persuade Seattle to take someone else off the roster, the way he did with Vegas in 2017 when the Jets sent a first-round pick to the Golden Knights so they'd select Chris Thorburn, rather than exposed defenceman Toby Enstrom.

There's another matter to keep an eye on down the stretch as well for Winnipeg. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, teams must expose at least two forwards under contract for next season who played at least 27 games this year, and/or 54 games over the past two years.

Appleton qualifies as one. But Winnipeg doesn't have a second forward not named Wheeler, Scheifele, Ehlers, Connor, Dubois, Copp or Lowry in that category. Jansen Harkins is the closest, but he would need to play at least five of the remaining 12 regular-season games to qualify.

Lowry was one of nine pending UFA's on Winnipeg's active roster. The others are forwards Paul Stastny, Mathieu Perreault, Trevor Lewis and Nate Thompson, defencemen Tucker Poolman, Derek Forbort and Jordie Benn, and backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit.

"I just think it shows a commitment to winning and it shows a commitment that these guys have and the belief they have in the group around us. We’re a lot closer than some people will give us credit for. We’ve had a good start to this year and hopefully we can continue this down the last little stretch and into the playoffs," Lowry said of so many key players electing to sign long-term.

"You look at the make up of our team, we’ve got a Vezina-calibre goalie, he gives you a chance to win every night. We have some elite, elite scorers and we have some good pieces on the back end, and a lot of young players that are coming up that are going to have positive contributions — a good mix of veterans and young guys. Those guys committing long term shows their belief in what we have, what we’ve been building, and what we’re trying to accomplish here."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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