WINNIPEG -- Paul Maurice is returning as coach of the Winnipeg Jets, and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec will retain the No. 1 job.
Jets executive vice president and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff announced Wednesday at his end-of-season news conference that Maurice has signed a four-year contract extension. Cheveldayoff also announced Maurice's assistant coaches will be retained, though he allowed that another assistant may be added this summer.
"We are extremely proud and looking forward to the future with Paul," Cheveldayoff said.
Maurice, 47, was 18-12-5 this season after replacing Claude Noel on Jan. 12. His tenure began with nine wins in his first 11 games to push the Jets back into the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference.
However, injuries to several key players and a slump during the final month of the regular season doomed the Jets' postseason chances. The Jets finished 11th in the West with a 37-35-10 record. The organization has missed the playoffs in its three seasons in Winnipeg and has not qualified for the playoffs since 2007, when it was based in Atlanta.
Maurice, a coaching veteran of 1,119 NHL games, had two tenures with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes organization and led the Toronto Maple Leafs. His NHL coaching record is 478-469-73 with 99 ties, and he spent the 2012-13 season in the Kontinental Hockey League with Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
The Jets' desire to retain Maurice was clear.
"Quite honestly, it really didn't take that long," Cheveldayoff said of negotiations with Maurice. "He's an impressive hockey coach, but he's a very impressive person as well.
"He has really found a way to get to know everybody and get to know people. He walked in and made a tremendous impact from the moment he walked in, and we believe that we're just scratching the surface on the impact that he can make with this franchise moving forward."
Cheveldayoff said the interest from Maurice was mutual.
"He knows this organization in and out," Cheveldayoff said. "He has had the opportunity to say no. He knows there would have been opportunities to potentially go other places. His enthusiasm, his excitement and his genuine feel for this group is certainly something that pushed us."
Several players endorsed Maurice's candidacy when they met with the media Sunday. The Jets also held exit meetings before they began to scatter around the globe for the offseason.
"The conversations that we had with the players and the coaching staff is an excitement that they feel that while we didn't achieve the goal of making the playoffs, there was a lot of growth that happened from this group," Cheveldayoff said.
Captain Andrew Ladd publicly supported Maurice's return.
"I think he's a great coach and a great mind, and is really good for this group," Ladd said. "I think that everyone in that room loves to play for him.
"I think [the coaching change] was big for a lot of guys. For a lot of guys, it seemed like we were stuck in a little bit of a rut at that point. We needed something to get us going, and Paul did a great job coming in. He had the attention of our group. As a group, we did a great job of really following what he was trying to preach and doing the right things."
A much-debated issue among Jets fans has centered around Pavelec. The 26-year-old played 57 games this season, with a 22-26-7 record with a 3.01 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. Pavelec's GAA and save percentage each ranked 45th among NHL goaltenders.
Pavelec has come under scrutiny in Winnipeg, particularly this season. The Jets' 2.82 goals allowed per game ranked 22nd in the League, even though their 30.1 shots allowed per game ranked 17th.
Cheveldayoff shut down any speculation the Jets might look to trade or buy out Pavelec.
"Yes," Cheveldayoff replied when asked if Pavelec would hold the Jets' No. 1 job next season. "Yes, Ondrej Pavelec is the No. 1 goalie going into next season."
With Maurice hired and the Pavelec issue seemingly settled, Cheveldayoff will turn his attention toward the 2014 NHL Draft on June 27-28 in Philadelphia, where the Jets hold the ninth pick.
Cheveldayoff has a long list of offseason chores. Versatile forward Michael Frolik, who contributed 15 goals and 27 assists in his first season after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, will be a restricted free agent July 1. Cheveldayoff said he will reach out to Frolik to begin contract talks.
Cheveldayoff would like to improve his NHL roster, but Jets fans should not expect any major free-agent signings from a general manager who has taken a very patient approach.
"We like what we have in a lot of different areas," Cheveldayoff said. "We'll look at all options, but certainly we're not going to deviate from the plan of trying to draft, develop and build."
The Jets' 2.67 goals scored per game ranked 15th, and Cheveldayoff said improving his forward group would be one option. Fitness will be a key focus for Maurice, who wants the Jets to play an up-tempo game. Maurice said the Jets' size, speed and youth are tailored for a faster pace.
One wild-card option for the Jets is 22-year-old center Alexander Burmistrov, the eighth pick in the 2010 draft. Burmistrov spent three seasons in the NHL before spending this season in the KHL with AK Bars Kazan, where he had 10 goals and 27 assists in 54 games.
Cheveldayoff said he will speak with Burmistrov's agent regarding the possibility of luring the speedy forward back to Winnipeg for next season. Maurice's KHL experience could be an asset in smoothing a potential re-entry process for Burmistrov, according to Cheveldayoff.
"I think that Paul having experience coaching in Russia … he has a tremendous appreciation and a much better understanding of non-North American players and what they have gone through in their upbringing both on and off the ice," Cheveldayoff said. "I think it's an appreciation that you truly don't have unless you experience it."