The Winnipeg Jets have signed forward Nikolaj Ehlers to a seven-year contract worth a reported $42 million. The team made the announcement on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old was set to be a restricted free agent as of July 1.
Ehlers is coming off his entry level deal, which will pay him a base salary of $832,500 in the 2017-2018 season. He’ll receive a pretty big upgrade when his $6 million price point kicks in for 2018-2019 and runs through 2024-2025.
The Aalborg native was drafted ninth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, with the Jets selecting him as their first-round pick.
In two seasons with Winnipeg, Ehlers has 102 points – including 40 goals and 62 assists. He has nine power play goals in 154 games.
“This team, this organization, the city, everything,” Ehlers said. “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.”
Ehlers also skated for Denmark at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, where he picked up four assists in seven games.
Jets coach Paul Maurice lauded him for his training camp performance, noting that his positional play has improved considerably. He put Ehlers will Patrik Laine and centre Bryan Little and may stick with that as Winnipeg faces the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opener on Wednesday.
“It’s one of the reasons the lines ended up the way that they did,” Maurice said. “I didn’t love Ehlers and [Patrik Laine] playing together on the wings with either centre 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.”
The Jets are hoping their fans will like it too, as locking up Ehlers to such a deal pretty much settles the nucleus at the forward position for the next couple years.
The club has Ehlers, Bryan Little and Mark Scheifele tied up for the foreseeable future, with Mathieu Perreault signed to 2020-2021. Blake Wheeler is set for unrestricted free agency in two seasons, the same time the team will have to give Laine a contract worth signing.