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Jets give coach Noel one-year contract extension

Monday, 06.24.2013 / 8:10 PM / News

By Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

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Jets give coach Noel one-year contract extension
The Winnipeg Jets and coach Claude Noel have agreed on a one-year contract extension, the team announced Monday.

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets made their first significant move of the summer by extending coach Claude Noel's contract for another year, keeping him behind the bench through the 2014-15 season.

The three-year contract Noel signed when the Jets hired him in 2011 was set to expire after next season. Noel, who will begin the final season of that deal this fall, has produced a 61-56-13 record with the Jets, who have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007, when they were the Atlanta Thrashers.

"This group deserves the opportunity to continue the job they've been doing," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Monday of Noel and his coaching staff. The GM said he plans to offer extensions to assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Perry Pearn and Pascal Vincent.

Noel's work with the club's young players impressed management.

"I think we've seen some young players who have started to come into their own," said Cheveldayoff, citing captain Andrew Ladd, forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian in that group. "With the opportunity of having young players on the horizon and knowing Claude's ability to work with young players to help develop them, that was a strength when we did hire him that again came to the forefront."

Noel said Monday he wasn't worried about his job security, even though the team failed to make the playoffs in its first two seasons since moving from Atlanta to Winnipeg in 2011.

"I'm certainly happy to get extended and continue on the process that we've started here," Noel said. "I certainly didn't put a lot of stock into [not having a contract extension]. It was fairly early in the summer. Certainly for me, whether I'm going into my last year or not, I don't think that it changes the way I coach."

Halting the franchise's six-season playoff drought is the first task for Noel, whose club came up four points short in 2012-13 as the ninth-place team in the Eastern Conference.

"Clearly the goal is to make the playoffs," Noel said. "I think we need to raise the bar. We have raised the bar. That bar needs to continue to be raised."

Resolving Noel's status eliminated one task from Cheveldayoff's offseason to-do list. Next up is to begin restructuring a roster that has 12 players under contract.

Among Cheveldayoff's summer jobs will be to re-sign first-line forwards Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, as well as Bogosian, a top-four defenseman. Those three are among the Jets' eight restricted free agents and six unrestricted free agents. Veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey appears set to test his value on the market as an unrestricted free agent, and restricted free-agent center Alexander Burmistrov needs a new deal.

"It's a very busy time," Cheveldayoff said. "We have reached out to all of the [restricted free agents]. When they're all going to get done, it's hard to say. Needless to say, there is still a lot of work ahead on a lot of different fronts."

One of those fronts figures to be finding a top-six forward to play with Kane on the second line.

"We'd love to find another forward somehow -- be it by trade or by free agency -- to come in and play in the top end of our lineup," Cheveldayoff said.

Center Olli Jokinen struggled in his first season with the Jets, but he appears set to begin his second season in Winnipeg. The Jets also have needs among the bottom-six forwards and on the blue line. Backup goaltender Al Montoya is an unrestricted free agent, though Cheveldayoff said he has reached out to Montoya's camp.

But before turning their attention toward summer signings and trades, the Jets must wrap up their final preparations for the NHL Draft on Sunday in Newark N.J. Winnipeg owns the 13th pick in the first round and 10 selections overall. Six of those picks are in the first three rounds.

The slew of picks offers the Jets some ability to maneuver, and Cheveldayoff has notified his amateur scouting staff that some of the picks could be moved in transactions.

"The traditional trade market is something that could be very active as well," Cheveldayoff said.

He also raised the possibility the Jets could try to trade up in the first round, or that they might opt to trade down and amass more assets.

"There are opportunities to move in both directions," he said. "My focus here would be to see if there is an opportunity to move up in the draft if the right player was there and we had the assets that could work to move [up]."

The Jets' past two No. 1 picks -- center Mark Scheifele (2011) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (2012) -- figure to get a significant chance to make the team in the fall. Cheveldayoff said the team has a lot of options as it heads into the summer.

"There are just so many things right now that could present themselves," he said. "We have flexibility. We have flexibility in the number of contracts. We have some flexibility and some room in the [salary] cap side of things."

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