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'Infectious' Perreault signs four-year extension

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG - Mathieu Perreault and the Winnipeg Jets agreed to terms Thursday on a four-year, $16.5M ($4.125M AAV) contract extension, keeping the versatile forward in Winnipeg through his 33rd birthday.

"Mathieu has found his place. He's found his home," Head Coach Paul Maurice said. "He's excited. He fits. He's played the best hockey of his career here. …When the fans come and watch him, and the players on the bench, they all appreciate his tenacity. For not a big guy, he plays with a big heart. We're fortunate, and real pleased he picked us again."

A few weeks ago at the NHL Draft, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said there was mutual interest to get a deal done, and that it was becoming one of his top off-season priorities.

"His game is an infectious game," Cheveldayoff said. He's a guy that likes to have the puck on his stick, can make plays, he's good on the power play, can play different positions…

"It's exciting news for our franchise."

Perreault, who's entering the third of a three-year contract, signed as a free agent in the summer of 2014 after spending three years with the Washington Capitals - the team that drafted him - and one with the Anaheim Ducks. In two seasons with the Jets, he has back-to-back 41-point campaigns, giving him 78 goals and 195 points in 361 career games.

He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 season.

The Drummondville, QC native is one of the most gifted players on the Jets roster, with the ability to play either centre or wing, along with being the team's top possession player, finishing this past year with a 57% Corsi - meaning that when he was on the ice, the Jets were generating more than half
of the total 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Dustin Byfuglien was the next highest at 53.9%.

"One of the things that came out of Bryan Little 's injury, and some of the other injuries, is that I liked the way Matty played centre. That's where he started, and I think that's the position he enjoys the most," Maurice said. "You saw here at Development Camp, we've got some kids coming in
pushing for those wing jobs, so it's an option to put him in the middle."

With Little and Mark Scheifele occupying two of the final three centre spots, and with Patrik Laine coming in on the wing, competition will be high as a throng of players fight for just a few jobs
up front.

"I've got a block of players that I think play in that Top 6, and there's always some room for players to jump in and out. That second block, there's an awful lot of players that are going to compete for those roles.

"You can burn through a lot of paper in the summer."

Perreault's new contract will kick in at the start of the 2017-18 season. The feisty, 5-foot-10 forward is one of the most underrated players in the game and will certainly be a bargain for the Jets, considering his on- and off-ice contributions to the team and community.

"His personality is one of his real strong suits," Maurice said. "The way he interacts with the players… There are certain positive guys that walk into the rink with a smile on their face, they're happy to be there, they compete real hard and they enjoy practice. You don't know anything about that from a player on another team, so that's the biggest revelation. We also saw him, fairly early on, get out of just that skilled puck mode and get into that quick forecheck, hard on pucks, real competitive
battle mode."

"And the skill is also there."

Perreault has already put down roots in the city, with he and wife, Jennilie, welcoming their first child - baby Violette - earlier this year.

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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