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Ehlers agrees to seven-year, $42 million contract with Jets

Forward had 64 points in 82 games last season

by Scott Billeck / Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Forward Nikolaj Ehlers showed he was more than happy to commit his long-term future to the Winnipeg Jets by agreeing to terms on a seven-year, $42 million contract on Wednesday.

The contract has an average annual value of $6 million and takes effect next season.

Ehlers, 21, would have been a restricted free agent on July 1.

"This team, this organization, the city, everything," Ehlers said, citing the reasons for his decision, after the Jets morning skate at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday prior to their season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). "From day one, I was happy here. Everybody helped me getting settled from the start. It's amazing playing in front of all these fans. Winnipeg as a city is amazing, they love their hockey. So, I could not see any reason to not want to stay here for the long term."

Chosen by the Jets with the No. 9 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Ehlers had 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists) in 82 games last season, his second in the League. He also had four assists in seven games playing for Denmark at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

Ehlers, who has 102 points (40 goals, 62 assists) in 154 regular-season games, has made big strides since the end of last season, Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Video: Discussing Nikolaj Ehlers new deal

"His training camp this year was really, really solid in terms of how many times you have to correct him where he is positionally on the ice," Maurice said. "He's picking it up, he gets it. He's heard it enough times now that we stop worrying about it."

The evolution and maturity of Ehlers' defensive game made Maurice comfortable with playing Ehlers on a line with center Bryan Little and right wing Patrik Laine, 19. 

"It's one of the reasons the lines ended up the way that they did," Maurice said. "I didn't love Ehlers and [Laine] playing together on the wings with either center when it wasn't going, you had two really, really young guys.

"Nik's game meant that I don't feel I have two young guys on that line, even though their age tells me that they are. Nik and Bryan have a lot of veteran in their game now and Patty clearly, on the right, had a pretty good exhibition. We like it."

For Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, signing Ehlers means locking up another piece of Winnipeg's young core for years to come.

"Nikolaj has been an exciting player for us ever since we had the opportunity to draft him," Cheveldayoff said. "We knew we felt we had a special player. Certainly, his development and talking to Paul, the development of his 200-foot game is something that Paul really talks about.

"For us to lock him up long term is a big step for us, something that we're very excited that it did come together. Essentially this is the first time we've had an extension off of an entry-level [contract]. … But when it falls into place as quickly as it did, it's exciting."

Laine, who is close with Ehlers, was happy to hear the news.

"As Nik's linemate and good buddy, it's awesome to see a nice guy like that get rewarded like that," Laine said. "It's awesome for me. I'm super happy for him. It's just nice to see that this organization thinks that and believes that he will be a franchise player for this team. It's just awesome."

Laine also said Ehlers is going to be responsible for most of the bills while the Jets are on the road.

"I told him already that I'm not going to pay any room service bills anymore, that's for sure," Laine said. "That's on him."

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