HAMILTON - Derek Meech is still having trouble digesting the words.
The 27-year-old defenceman Winnipegger spent the past seven seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and got his name on the Stanley Cup back in 2008, but on Friday he realized a life-long dream by becoming a member of the Winnipeg Jets organization.
“Obviously, being a Winnipeg kid and growing up here my whole life, just the fact it’s the Winnipeg Jets and I signed a contract with them, it’s pretty surreal for me right now, that’s for sure,” Meech said in a telephone interview. “This spring and summer, when I came home, I was hoping to see a team come back here. The whole time I was thinking that, I had in the back of my head that it would be a pretty cool place to sign a contract and try to get an opportunity.
Meech spent all of last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, producing 10 goals, 27 assists and 37 points in 74 games.
The deal is for one-year, with a reported salary of $700,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the minors, which makes it easier for him to move back and forth, if necessary.
“When you sign there’s a lot of things that go through your head, but I’m just excited to show them that I’m ready to step in,” said Meech, a mobile blue-liner that has four goals and 16 points in 126 NHL games. “I’m going to work really hard this summer, get in the best shape I can and try to be at the top of my game come September. I’m going to try to give myself the best opportunity to turn some heads.”
Meech was originally drafted in the seventh round (229th overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
In the early evening, the Jets added a little more grit to their lineup, signing left-winger Tanner Glass to a one-year deal for $750,000.
Glass, a 27-year-old from Regina, spent the past two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, producing three goals and 10 points in 73 games in 2010-11.
The Jets also saw unrestricted free agent forward Radek Dvorak leave the organization for the Dallas Stars, where he signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million.
Dvorak, 34, was acquired by the Atlanta Thrashers from the Florida Panthers and had seven goals and 22 points in 66 games last season.
The Jets are not expected to re-sign their other unrestricted free agent, enforcer Eric Boulton, while defenceman Freddy Meyer signed in Sweden last month.
Earlier Friday, Winnipegger Cam Barker was among those who cleared unconditional waivers and became an unrestricted free agent before signing a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers for $2.25 million.
Barker, who was the third overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, is only 25-years-old and had a career-high six goals, 34 assists and 40 points in 68 games during the 2008-09 season.
Speaking of local flavour, Winnipeg’s Ryan Garbutt signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Texas Stars.
Garbutt, a Manitoba Junior Hockey League grad who played for the Winnipeg South Blues, had 19 goals and 37 points in 65 games with the Wolves last season.