The looming question mark about who will mind the crease for the Winnipeg Jets next season has finally been answered. The Winnipeg Jets announced Monday they have agreed to terms with Ondrej Pavelec on a new five-year contract. As per club policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed. A deal that had been in the negotiation process for some time now but one that both parties are relieved to have behind them.
“I’m really happy that I have the chance to stay in Winnipeg for five years and that’s what I was looking for-- to stay in the city you like.” Pavelec told media on a conference call Monday from his home in the Czech Republic. “They have great fans there and I’ve always said that I like Winnipeg and I’m just really happy for the deal. It’s behind me now and I’m looking forward to being successful in Winnipeg.”
Agreeing on a long-term contract is never an easy process but it was clear to Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, that Pavelec is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle.
“There’s no question on the importance of having strong stable goaltending,” said Cheveldayoff on a conference call from Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he is attending American Hockey League meetings. “Ondrej is a young player that is still coming into his own with respect to the best years of a goaltenders career. We’re very excited about locking Ondrej up and even more excited that Ondrej wants to commit and be a part of the process of the Winnipeg Jets moving forward.
“He is one of the best young goaltenders in the game right now. We believe he’s going to continue that trend in an upward fashion. As we grow as a team, we expect Ondrej to grow.”
Pavelec confirmed that he did indeed receive an offer from a team in the KHL in Russia but that all along he really wanted to stay in Winnipeg and continue to be part of the Jets family.
“It’s a process,” said Pavelec on agreeing on a contract. “I really believe that my agent did the best he could. It’s a business and a process and it’s never easy to make a deal.
“I really feel that Chevy wanted me to stay in Winnipeg and I really wanted to stay in Winnipeg so I always believed that we could make a deal and I’m really happy.”
Pavelec, 24, appeared in 68 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season where he earned a 29-28-9 record, 2.91 goals against average and 0.906 save percentage. He ranked fifth in the league in overall games played as well as fifth overall in shots against (2,036) and saves (1,845). Last season, he set new career-highs in games played, minutes, wins, and saves.
The netminder said the five-year deal was an easy dotted line to sign on, as the five-year term was exactly what he was hoping for.
“It’s something that I was looking for- a long deal. If you sign a five-year deal you have to be sure the organization is going the right direction. I want to win and I want to be successful. I really believe in my teammates and that the organization is going in a good direction.”
As July 1st, 2012 inches closer and closer, Cheveldayoff believes that signing Pavelec is only one of the many building blocks in the equation and he’ll now turn his focus to the other moving pieces.
“We’re taking steps toward acquiring assets and acquiring young building blocks,” explained Cheveldayoff. “By signing Ondrej Pavelec, we’re locking in one of the building blocks and as we progress moving forward. We’re hopeful to do the same in other situations and circumstances.”
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