By Scott Taylor
Calling it “an honor” to sign an eight-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets, Mark Scheifele is now the future of the Jets.
Not that it wasn’t the case, anyway.
On Friday afternoon, Scheifele talked to the media on a conference call after signing an eight-year $49 million deal with Winnipeg, a deal that will look like a bargain after three or four years. Especially if Scheifele continues to improve the way he did this season.
Just 23, Scheifele set career-highs with 29 goals and 61 points last season. He also dished out 32 assists in 71 games. His finished the 2015-16 season on a 10-game point scoring streak and was tops in the NHL with 33 points in 26 games from Feb. 18, until the end of the regular season.
“I wanted an eight-year deal,” he said. “That’s what was on my mind from the start. I wouldn’t have wanted to stick around if it wasn’t such a great community.
“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.”
During the call, Scheifele talked about the future of the club and in particular, young teammates Patrik Laine, 18, Jacob Trouba, 23, Andrew Copp, 22, and Nikolaj Ehlers, 20.
“This is so exciting, I haven’t stopped smiling since I found out,” he said. “A player like Laine is going to be special. We have a great young team here with a bright future.
Scheifele’s AAV will $6.125 million per season. Scheifele will be 31 at the end of this deal so both sides got what they were after. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff added that Scheifele will have a limited no-trade clause, but only during the UFA years of this deal.
Scheifele, who was born and raised in Kitchener, Ont, native was the first draft pick taken by Jets 2.0 after the team relocated to Winnipeg from Atlanta. He was selected seventh overall at the 2011 NHL Draft. During his still brief NHL career his point totals have increased in each and every season and he now had 58 goals and 145 points in 227 career games.
Earlier in the day, the Jets signed defenseman Brenden Kichton to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 per season if Kichton plays at the NHL level.
Kichton, 24, from Spruce Grove, Alta., led the Manitoba Moose in scoring last season with 11 goals and 41 points in 68 games. He was called up twice by the Jets last season, but did not see any game action. He was originally drafted by the Jets in the seventh round, (190th overall) in 2013. This will be his fourth season as a professional.