The Winnipeg Jets have given head coach Claude Noel at least a small vote of confidence, signing him to a one-year contract extension.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff says the rest of the coaching staff will also be offered some job security as well.
“You deal with what’s right in front of you and the coaching staff now has got an extension to move forward beyond this season and that’s something that we all feel comfortable with,” Cheveldayoff said Monday.
Noel is entering his third season with the team and the one-year extension will take him to the end of the 2014-15 NHL season.
Cheveldayoff and Noel said the fact that it was only a one-year extension wasn’t that big a deal.
“The term really doesn’t determine how you do that job. For me the extension is great,” said Noel.
“Would you rather have a longer term? I think this is fine.”
Noel led the Jets to a 24-21-3 record last season as Winnipeg finished ninth in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot.
He coached the Jets to a 37-35-10 record in 2011-12, the club’s first season in Winnipeg after relocating from Atlanta, also missing the playoffs.
The former Thrashers haven’t seen the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, when they were swept in the quarter-finals by the New York Rangers.
“I clearly see that we have to make the playoffs but it’s not easy to make the playoffs,” the coach said Monday on a conference call.
Prior to the Jets’ arrival, Noel coached the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs in 2010-’11.
Before moving to Winnipeg, he spent four seasons in Columbus as an assistant coach and was head coach for the final 24 games of the 2009-10 season after Ken Hitchcock was fired. The Blue Jackets went 10-8-6 over that span but Noel’s contract was not renewed.
Cheveldayoff also talked about the upcoming NHL draft and his dealings with both restricted and unrestricted free agents.
He says the team would like to move up from their current 13th pick in the entry draft but there are also teams lower down that would like to move up as well. There is the potential for deals either way.
He has started talks with all the team’s restricted free agents and is looking to get them signed. As for unrestricted free agents, they have had some discussions with defenceman Grant Clitsome and goaltender Al Montoya about returning.
As for the others, such as defenceman Ron Hainsey, Cheveldayoff said he expects they may try the market but he didn’t rule out some returning.
He still wants to add depth at forward but with the 13th pick, says it’s difficult to know who might be available. They will take the best player they can get.
Centre Mark Scheifele, their top 2011 draft pick, is expected to join the team this season after playing the last two seasons with his junior squad in Barrie.
With so many players able to move, exactly what Noel will have to work with this season is up in the air.
“We’re not quire sure where our roster is right now but that will be determined through time.”
He says they still have to work on being more consistent and improving their goals for and against average, but he sees lots of room for growth.
“I like our team. I like our players. I like a lot of what they bring to the table,” he said.
Next season the Jets also move to the Western Conference.
“It will be a fun time for us and a big challenge,” said Noel.