Forward Bryan Little agreed to a six-year, $31.746 million contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The contract has an average annual value of $5.291 million and runs through 2023-24.
"The one thing I said was I wanted to sign a longer-term deal," Little said. "I wanted that stability. I knew I could play a lot longer and I wanted to stay in Winnipeg for a long time. The term is kind of big for me. I wanted to be here for a while and be secure. Luckily they were offering that right away so it worked out."
Little is entering the final season of a five-year contract that has an average annual value of $4.7 million.
[RELATED: Long-term contract extensions signed since July 1]
The 29-year-old has spent his entire 10-season NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets franchise and said he had no interest in leaving now that things are starting to get good.
"I've been with this franchise a long time, a lot of ups and a lot of downs," he said. "I feel like the team is taking a turn. It's definitely the most talented group I've ever played with, so I think the future of this team is really bright and in the next few years it's going to be fun to play on this team. That was another thing that was in the back of my mind that made me want to stay longer here."
Little is part of a talented core of forwards that includes Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. Except for Ehlers, all are signed through the 2018-19 season; Ehlers can become a restricted free agent July 1, 2018.
Video: The guys talk Bryan Little's extension with the Jets
"[Bryan's] just so easy to be around as a young kid," said Laine, 19, who had 64 points (36 goals, 28 assists) in 73 games as a rookie last season. "He's a veteran. He's played a lot of games in the NHL, so I think he knows what he is doing. He's a great player and it's so easy to play with him. He's so smart with the puck and he can score. He's a great player."
Little had 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games last season. He missed 23 games because of a lower-body injury sustained on Oct. 13, 2016. Little also missed 25 games in 2015-16 because of a compression fracture of his T6 vertebrae.
He had an NHL career-best 64 points (23 goals, 41 assists) in 82 games in 2013-14, and has 432 points (184 goals, 248 assists) in 672 NHL games. The Thrashers selected Little in the first round (No. 12) of the 2006 NHL Draft.
"He's a very consistent player," general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "You can use him in a lot of different areas. We really haven't seen it here but his most productive season in the NHL, from a goals perspective, was as a winger. And so he has the ability to score goals, he has the ability to make plays. He's perennially one of our 50-plus percent faceoff guys and I think you don't really appreciate him until you don't have him. We've had, unfortunately, two years where he's missed extended time with freak injuries. That's when it really hits home, the type of two-way player, 200-foot player, that he is. The quiet leadership he provides. … There's zero maintenance with him. He comes to play each and every day, he's always one of the top physical testing players in here."