The Winnipeg Jets have retained the services of centre Jim Slater, signing the centre to a US$4.8-million, three-year contract on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old native of Lapeer, Mich., played in a career-high 78 games for the Jets last season, scoring 13 goals and adding eight assists. He played for the United States at the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Slater was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“I told my agent right from the beginning that Winnipeg was definitely tops of my list and if everything seemed to work out then that’s the place I wanted to be,” Slater said. “I think both sides were very, very fair in the dealings and it just worked out the way it did, and I’m glad it did.”
Slater was drafted in the first round, 30th overall, by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2002 NHL draft. He has 60 goals, 61 assists and 322 penalty minutes over 449 career games with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.
He said loyalty between himself and the only NHL franchise he has ever played for was a significant factor in his decision to stay in Manitoba’s capital.
“That was one of the biggest things for me going into contract negotiations,” he said. “I have commitment in this organization and the Winnipeg Jets, and having them give me a three-year deal definitely shows commitment right back.”
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff praised Slater’s work ethic, his faceoff skills and even the way he ensures he stays in condition after the season ends.
“We’ve talked a lot within the group with respect to the type of person that Jim is, what he brings to the table, his work ethic,” said Cheveldayoff. “He’s someone that we feel very, very comfortable about bringing into our fold on a longer-term basis. He showed the commitment to us. He could have taken his opportunity to go to free agent, which players covet, and we showed the commitment to him.”
Cheveldayoff said they could have traded him last year at the trade deadline but decided he was too valuable and they would try to retain him.
“He’s a true professional that works hard on his game on and off the ice.”