Kyle Wellwood is setting about proving himself once again.
With a new US$700,000, one-year contract from the Winnipeg Jets in hand, the well-travelled centre is looking forward to another new opportunity.
The last year has taken him from a tryout with the Phoenix Coyotes to a 25-game stint in Russia to a mid-season deal with St. Louis, where he never got to play a game after being plucked off waivers by the San Jose Sharks.
A free agent through the summer for the second straight year, Wellwood managed not to fret as much about his uncertain future this time around.
“It was a lot easier,” he said Friday on a conference call. “Certainly you always want to get your opportunity on July 1, (but) just going through last year where it didn’t happen, your expectations are that not too much has changed. You’ve got to prove yourself every day, control what you control.
“I’m thankful to have a job now.”
Other than the few months he spent in the KHL last season, the 28-year-old Wellwood has been a NHL regular since the end of the 2005 lockout.
However, he’s rarely had anything approaching stability. He battled injuries during a three-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs and had his conditioning questioned publicly by coach Alain Vigneault during two subsequent seasons in Vancouver.
Those experiences, along with others picked up over the last 12 months, have helped him grow and become more confident. He expects them to be particularly useful now that he’s back under the microscope in a hockey-mad city.
“I think as a veteran it’s going to be a lot easier just as far as realizing that you’re just out there to play hockey,” said Wellwood. “It’s a privilege to play in Canada and you’ve got to enjoy the good things that it can bring.”
Wellwood is shifty with the puck and has shown himself to be particularly useful at helping slow things down on the power play. He had a career-best 18 goals with Vancouver in 2008-09 and once put up 45 points in a season with the Leafs.
The Jets were drawn to his versatility.
“I’ve had conversations with his agent off and on over the course of the summer,” general manager Kevin Chevldayoff told reporters in Winnipeg. “It’s really all about the timing and the timing was right for us to move forward with respect to the contract offer.
“Looking to where he potentially fits into the lineup, the fact that he can move up and down the different lines, play centre or wing, gives us just a little bit more flexibility in trying to create different options.”
Wellwood is happy to do whatever is asked of him. He called it a “privilege” to be part of the NHL’s return to Winnipeg and hopes to share some of his experiences with the franchise’s younger players.
He’s come a long way himself.
“I think I’m a lot more consistent with my play,” said Wellwood. “I take it seriously. After being moved around quite a bit, I don’t take anything for granted. I enjoy the work part of it a lot more.
“I’m just happy to have a hockey team and be playing again.”