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This article was published 10/8/2015 (2233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IF Jim Slater was a betting man, it doesn't sound like he'd be putting much money on a return to Winnipeg this fall.
The longest-serving member of the Jets organization -- Slater was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002 and played his first NHL season in 2005-06 -- has been an unrestricted free agent since July 1.
It's a position he's never been in before. The last time his contract was up three years ago, the Jets re-signed him before he hit the open market with an annual cap hit of $1.6 million.
"This year is definitely different in a lot of ways for me. I think I've handled it pretty well. It's stressful at a lot of times. I still have a positive mindset that something is going to happen," he said from East Lansing, Mich., where he's living with his young family and training this off-season.
Slater, a penalty-killing and faceoff specialist, scored five goals and added eight assists in 82 games last season. He had a career-high 13 goals in the 2011-12 season and has 67 goals and 138 points in 584 NHL games.
Slater said his agent keeps him up to date on the state of any talks.
"It's just a matter of staying positive, staying patient. My mindset is knowing I can still play in this league and have a major, positive role on a team. Teams are going to be looking for players still," he said.
Whether the Jets are seriously considering bringing Slater back for a fifth year in Winnipeg sounds doubtful.
"Stranger things have happened. It's hockey. As of right now, it doesn't seem to be, but never cross things off your list until they're officially crossed off. It's been a pleasure playing in Winnipeg as long as I have. I really enjoy all the guys and the city. You never know but as of right now, it doesn't look (like I'll be coming back to Winnipeg)," he said.
Slater is working with a trainer, has been lifting weights and recently got back on the ice. He said as the month goes on, he'll be joined by more NHL players at his alma mater, Michigan State.
"It's my job to prepare like I'm coming back and playing in the NHL next year. I think the same way every summer. My body feels good, my body feels healthy, everything feels strong. I'm preparing for that day when I get a phone call from a team that wants to sign me," he said.
Slater said his first priority in the off-season was re-signing with the Jets.
"Being with the team for so long, you always hope (to re-sign). I'm very comfortable in Winnipeg, especially with all the guys on the team. I really like the way the team is going, especially under coach (Paul) Maurice and the prospects they've got coming up. It's never a bad thing to play with the same team that you've always been with," he said.
The Jets don't comment on the state of negotiations with any of their players. Some of their remaining UFAs include Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak.
If Slater has played his last game in a Jets' uniform, he wants fans to know how much he appreciated their support over his four seasons.
"I enjoyed my time in Winnipeg, 100 per cent. I think it's a great city, a great community and a great place to play hockey. We'll see what happens," he said.