June 30, 2015

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Drew Stafford gave up long-term security to sign a new deal with the Winnipeg Jets.

Stafford signed an $8.7 million, two-year contract on the eve of free agency to remain in Winnipeg, where he's had success since a trade from the Buffalo Sabres.

''I think the term works good for both sides,'' Stafford said on a conference call Tuesday. ''I'm all for the challenge of raising my game.''

The 29-year-old winger had nine goals and 17 assists in 26 games for the Jets since being part of the Evander Kane deal in February.

Stafford helped Winnipeg reach the playoffs amid several injuries, and that postseason appearance motivated him to want to return and do it all again.

''We have the type of team where I think we can do some damage,'' Stafford said.

The Jets had multiple unrestricted free agents, including wingers Michael Frolik and Lee Stempniak, but as of Tuesday night didn't have anything done that would keep them from hitting the open market Wednesday.

Stafford wouldn't say what other offers he had around the NHL but called the Jets' one the best offer and the one he wanted. From the time he got to Winnipeg, the Milwaukee native felt it was a perfect fit.

Raving about how members of the organization treated him from owner Mark Chipman down to coach Paul Maurice and his teammates, Stafford validated that by taking a two-year deal.

''I'm always obviously interested in the security of having term, but I'm not exactly 20 years old anymore, either,'' Stafford said. ''After two years they can evaluate where I'm at, and if it's still a good fit then we can maybe talk then about where we're at.''

In 589 games, Stafford has 154 goals and 187 assists. The vast majority of that came in Buffalo, where he was unsure of the uncertainty moving forward.

Winnipeg brought Stafford some stability, which he's looking to enjoy for two more seasons.

''I felt when I got to Winnipeg I was able to get my game back and start to at least move the needle toward the positive side where I feel like I know how I can play,'' Stafford said. ''I feel like I still have a lot left to show.''

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