WINNIPEG - Now that heís got a new contract all sewn up, Spencer Machacek is turning his focus to nailing down a permanent spot on the Winnipeg Jets roster.
After impressing during a late-season recall, the 23-year-old right-winger was officially signed to a one-year, two-way deal by the Jets on Tuesday.
ďItís been long, but both sides wanted to get something done and Iím really excited about signing with the Jets,Ē Machacek said in a telephone interview from Lethbridge, Alta. ďI was coming into a new organization last year and the coaching staff probably didnít know much about me. At the end of the year, I showed I could play and Iím looking forward to coming to camp and trying to earn a spot.Ē
The signing of Machacek leaves left-winger Evander Kane as the only unsigned restricted free agent for the Jets.
Machacek, 23, was unable to produce any offence during a two-game recall in late January and early February, but left his mark when he got a second chance, picking up two goals and nine points over his final 11 games of the campaign.
Pretty impressive numbers when you consider Machacek had no points in his first 14 NHL games ó the first 12 of which came as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.
ďItís obviously huge for the confidence,Ē said Machacek, who was chosen in the third round (67h overall) by the Thrashers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. ďIt was unfortunate we didnít make the playoffs, that was the main thing when I came up but personally, I made some steps forward and it gives me the confidence to know I can produce (in the NHL).
ďIím not sure I can pinpoint a moment, but having been through it a couple of times before, you gain some knowledge on what to expect from the call-ups and I just wanted to have no regrets when I went up. I always believed in myself and it was nice for the Jets to give me that opportunity in the end.Ē
Machacek figures to go into training camp with a strong opportunity to nail down a spot on the fourth line and possibly work his way up the depth chart if he performs like he did down the stretch.
But heís not about to take anything for granted, since the Jets brought in the likes of Olli Jokinen and Alex Ponikarovsky during the off-season to help bolster the forward depth.
ďObviously, my expectations are pretty high,Ē said Machacek. ď(The Jets) made some good signings this summer and Iím excited to come in here. Last year it was a new thing for everybody. Now we have a year under our belt. Iím going to come in and show what Iíve got. Itís never easy to earn a spot, but Iím going to give it my all.Ē
Should the NHL lockout drag on, Machacek said he would have no qualms heading down to join the St. Johnís IceCaps of the American Hockey League until labour peace is restored.
ďObviously Iím hoping the (NHL) season starts on time but if it doesnít, I would definitely do that for sure,Ē said Machacek, who had 18 goals and 50 points in 61 games with the IceCaps last season. ďI want to play hockey.Ē