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Winnipeg Jets retain services of backup netminder and free agent Al Montoya

WINNIPEG - Al Montoya says he's happy to return as the backup goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets after agreeing to a new contract Thursday that keeps him from testing free agency.

"I really enjoyed my time last year," he said of his first, abbreviated season with the Jets.

"This is a good group, a good team. We came so close last year. For me I like the coaching staff, I love working with the goalie coach (Wade Flaherty) so it was pretty simple."

He credits Flaherty with helping him return to a more natural athletic style of play.

"Somewhere along the way I kind of lost my own game and with Flatts I kind of got it back . . . I didn't play much last year but the games I did play in I felt my career's going in the direction I want and I have a lot more to show."

With his signing, the Jets have locked up the only unrestricted free agents general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff seemed eager to retain this year. The other was defenceman Grant Clitsome, signed earlier this week to a three-year, $6.2-million deal.

The Jets didn't release details of Montoya's contract but it was reportedly a one-year deal for the same $601,000 he pulled in last season.

Montoya squeezed in a quick conference call from Miami where he's attending his brother's wedding.

The 28-year-old played in seven games for the Jets last season, starting five and ending the season with a record of 3-1-0, a 2.91 goals against average and 0.899 save percentage.

He has suited up for 63 career NHL games between the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders and Jets for a 24-18-10 career record, 2.77 goals against average and 0.906 career save percentage.

The Chicago native was originally drafted sixth overall by the New York Rangers in 2004.

Montoya's time on the ice was limited due to injury last season but he says he's feeling great this summer and anxious to start playing hockey again.

"With the Olympic break coming up I don't expect the pace of this season to be much different."

He says he and the Jets starting netminder Ondrej Pavelec enjoy pushing each other in practice.

"We definitely push each other. . . it makes you a better player at the end of the day."

He also says he likes living in Winnipeg and the strong fan support.

"The city's great, my family liked it, and I think the team's moving in the right direction."


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