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This article was published 8/7/2016 (1418 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mark Scheifele had 49 million reasons to smile for the next eight years Friday, and you couldn’t wipe the grin off his face.
The 23-year-old centre pledged his long-term future to the team that brought him into the National Hockey League, signing an eight-year, US$49-million deal with the Winnipeg Jets, a pact that carries an annual average value of US$6.125 million. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause — 10 teams — during his unrestricted free agent years.
Scheifele’s grin could be seen all the way from a charity golf tournament in Ontario and through the phone as he spoke to reporters via conference call late Friday afternoon.
"It’s obviously so exciting. My girlfriend will attest to this, I haven’t stopped smiling since I found out," said Scheifele, who will be 31 when the deal runs out in 2023. "It’s definitely a huge honour."
The 6-3, 207-pounder from Kitchener, Ont., is coming off a career-year with 29 goals and 32 assists in 71 games, including 10-game point streak to end the season. He was the league’s top point producer from Feb. 18 until season’s end, notching 33 points in 26 games.
Scheifele admitted his desire for an eight-year deal from the get-go, explaining the direction of the team and its stable of prospects helped with the decision to re-up.
"I believe in the organization. I believe in the players on the team and I believe in the prospects. That’s what made it such an easy choice," said Scheifele, a self-described hockey nerd who watched the team’s intrasquad game at the team’s development camp Tuesday.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff likened Scheifele’s signing to the day they drafted him five years ago. In one word: monumental.
"He embodies so many of the things that we as an organization want to embody," he said. "He embraces the community. He gives back to the community. He respects the game. He respects himself. There’s probably not a truer match for our organization than Mark Scheifele."
Both sides said negotiations went amicably, but it wasn’t completely stress-free for the player.
"You never know what’s going to happen," Scheifele said. "You never know what is on the other end. Realistically (the club) is in the driver’s seat in terms of that, but when they said eight years, I was definitely excited about the prospect of being a Winnipeg Jet for eight years."
Scheifele has improved annually in three full seasons with the Jets, including narrowly missing the 30-goal plateau last year.
"I’m definitely happy with the progression," he said. "Every year you want to get better. Every year you want to continue to build, not just in points and goals and stuff like that, but as a player. Each and every game you kind of measure yourself on the way you play. That’s the biggest indication for a player like myself. You can tell when you’re playing good.
"But I know there’s a long way to go and I’m going to continue to work on that. I know signing this deal, realistically, that’s nothing. It’s all what happens on the ice and that’s what matters. That’s my goal, to be one of the elite players in the league. There’s definitely a lot of hard work ahead and I’m ready to do that."
With his pockets now overflowing with greenbacks, Scheifele said the first thing he’s going to do with the dough is take is family and his agent for dinner, and then maybe a round on the links.
Meanwhile, Cheveldayoff’s sights can now focus on restricted free agent defenceman Jacob Trouba, who has yet to sign a new deal. But don’t expect to hear about it until it’s official.
"Like (Mathieu) Perreault as a UFA, like (Michael) Hutchinson, when we have something to announce, we will announce it," Cheveldayoff said.