The Winnipeg Jets have signed forward Bryan Little to a six-year contract extension worth $31.746 million that will kick in at the start of the 2018-19 season, the Jets announced Thursday morning. The deal comes with an annual cap hit of $5.291 million and will likely keep Little in the Jets lineup for the remainder of his career. Set to turn 30 early during the 2017-18 season, Little will be 37 at the conclusion of this new deal – a long-term commitment for a player that has played his entire career with the Jets organization.
#NHLJets agree to terms with centre Bryan Little on a six-year contract extension.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) September 14, 2017
Originally selected with the 12th overall pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Little is one of the few holdovers from the Thrashers who eventually relocated to Winnipeg to form the modern-day Winnipeg Jets. An integral part of the Jets core, Little is entering the 11th year of his NHL career in the 2017-18 season after playing in only 59 games in 2016-17. Despite missing so much time, Little was still a huge part of the Jets’ lineup when he was healthy, scoring 21 goals and 47 points in 59 games while also leading the team in faceoff wins with a win-percentage of 55.6 percent.
“I’m really excited. I knew when we first started talking this summer that I wanted to stay here for a long time, and if possible maybe even finish my career here,” said Little. “I’m really happy things worked out, and we were able to get something done.”
Putting Little’s Mind at Ease for the 2017-18 Season
Little has scored a total of 184 goals and 432 points in 672 games in his career with five seasons of more than 20-goals, including a career-high 31 goals in 2008-09, his second season in the league. Entering the final year of his contract, the deal will give Little some time to breathe and not worry about his fate throughout the season. While there wasn’t much speculation that Little would be going anywhere, the thought can always linger on a player’s mind – especially around trade-deadline time as rumors start to take the hockey world by storm. Fortunately, Little won’t have to worry about that.
“Now is kind of the best part. I do still want to be a competitive player and a key guy on this team for a long time,” Little said. “There wasn’t any celebration or anything like that, I just took a breath, and I was happy about it, and now it’s time to get to work.”
High Praise for Little
When speaking about Little, Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made sure to mention how important Little is to the Jets and highlighted that he’s exactly the type of player every team would love to have in their lineup day-in and day out.
“He’s one of those players around the league, has a quiet type of appreciation,” said Cheveldayoff. “When coaches are setting up against your team that they talk about. Hearing the things that Jamie (Kompon) says about playing against us, how they looked at players, looked at our team, and hearing what other coaches thought about it, Bryan’s name was always one of those that when you start the game you might think he’s one way, when you finish the game the coaches always comment how effective he is.”
Jet’s captain Blake Wheeler has also been highly complimentary of Little – a player he’s played with since the 2011 trade deadline in Atlanta.
“When he gets feeling it with his stick there aren’t many guys that can put the puck in the net quite like he can. He’s a guy who prides himself on his preparation and just how hard he works every single day,” said Wheeler. “That’s probably why he flies under the radar a little bit. You never really have anything negative to talk about him, he doesn’t make many mistakes, battles on every puck. That’s what makes it great playing with guys like that. You know where they’re going to be.”
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.