Winnipeg Jets' Zach Bogosian (44) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 18, 2013. The Jets have signed defenceman Bogosian to a seven-year, $36-million contract. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Zach Bogosian was glad to have some stability with the Winnipeg Jets after a tumultuous start to his NHL career in Atlanta.
Two coaches in three years doesn't exactly help a young defenceman grow. Once he found some consistency in the Jets' lineup, Bogosian showed glimpses of being the kind of cornerstone player Kevin Cheveldayoff envisioned when he became general manager.
Monday that potential was rewarded with a seven-year, $36-million contract.
"I'm just real happy that Winnipeg believed in me and kind of gave me another chance to kind of prove myself," Bogosian said. "I didn't exactly have the best start of my career in Atlanta, and obviously moving up to Winnipeg gave me a new chance to play in a hockey market and play in a hockey town that really I enjoyed playing in front of.
"It was definitely a no-brainer for me to want to stay there for a long time."
The 23-year-old wanted a long-term deal, and the Jets were willing to provide it to a player just two years away from unrestricted free agency. Bogosian will count just over $5.14 million against the salary cap.
It's a bit of a gamble given that Bogosian only has 34 goals and 69 assists in 297 NHL games. But it's a risk Cheveldayoff and his staff were willing to take with the hope that he is just entering his prime.
"We have Zach locked up for what are the best years of a defenceman's career," Cheveldayoff said on a conference call. "Zach is someone that we wanted to show our faith in we know that as he continues to grow (as) a defenceman, his role and his leadership and all aspects of his game are going to help this team to get to the next level."
The next level for a young Jets core is to make the playoffs. Cheveldayoff didn't make a splash in free agency, but he did try to improve the roster by trading for right-wingers Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik.
His goal this off-season was to get deals done for a handful of restricted free agents, most notably Bogosian, centre Bryan Little and right-winger Blake Wheeler. Little got five years and $23.5 million, and Wheeler six years and $33.6 million.
Bogosian was the last of five Winnipeg restricted free agents to file for salary arbitration to get a deal done.
"I guess it probably just worked out that way," Bogosian said. "I was really happy to see the rest of the guys kind of get locked up long term."
At no point in the process did Bogosian worry that he wasn't going to get his long-term deal before an arbitration hearing.
"I was pretty confident it was going to get done," he said. "Obviously I don't know that much about arbitration. I've heard it's not the greatest thing to go to. I was just happy to get it done. It was very, I guess, humbling to know that Winnipeg wanted me to stay there for a long time as much as I did. It was mutual that both sides wanted to do a long-term deal from the get-go."
In signing him through the 2019-20 season, Cheveldayoff and the Jets saw similar things in the Massena, N.Y., native that USA Hockey did in inviting him to next month's Olympic orientation camp.
Even if he might not yet be on the level of a Norris Trophy candidate, he's a player Winnipeg hopes is a big piece of a near-future that includes playoff appearances.
"He is someone that I really believe there's a tremendous amount of untapped potential that as he continues to mature as a player is going to blossom," Cheveldayoff said. "His skating ability, his shot, his size, his work ethic, his physical strength. He's a young defenceman that for us is going to continue to grow."
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