The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets made new Portland Pirates head coach Ray Edwards an offer he just had to refuse.
“I just thought staying with Phoenix and coming to Portland from a family standpoint, a comfortability standpoint, this was the best thing to do,” Edwards said Tuesday.
Two weeks ago when it was announced the Coyotes were going to replace the Buffalo Sabres as the Pirates’ NHL parent and move their AHL affiliate from San Antonio to Portland, Edwards was supposed to move east to coach the team.
Last Thursday, Edwards interviewed for a job as an assistant coach with the Jets, who moved to Winnipeg last month after spending the last 12 seasons as the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Jets offered Edwards the job, but he turned it down.
“We were on pins and needles for a while last week, not knowing,” said Brian Petrovek, the CEO and managing owner of the Pirates. “But it’s good to know he is someone who is drawing that kind of interest.”
It was a big decision.
“The NHL is great and to be there would have been unbelievable, but there’s a lot that goes into those decisions,” Edwards said. “Obviously, my family is a big part of it.
“At this point, we just decided that (the Pirates) would be the best thing.”
Edwards, wife Leesa, son Holden and daughter Raechel toured the Portland suburbs Tuesday in search of a house.
“We’re really excited about coming here, really excited,” said Edwards, who has spent the last four seasons with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. “My kids are looking forward to seeing snow.”
Portland fans will get a chance to meet Edwards Thursday when the Pirates welcome members of the Coyotes’ organization and coaching staff at 11 a.m. in the Penalty Box Grille, located off the main lobby of the Cumberland County Civic Center. Phoenix General Manager Don Maloney and Assistant GM Brad Treliving also will be introduced.
Petrovek said he’s impressed with the moves the Coyotes have made to stock the Pirates with new players for next season.
“They went into the (NHL) draft preparing our team for the future, and then they came out of it and immediately began working on the makeup of our team for next season,” Petrovek said.
“I’m impressed with their due diligence in finding and signing the type of players like we’ve had here before, players who are as good in the community as they are on the ice.”
“The identity of our group is going to be character, integrity, skills and speed, but the character of individuals is top priority,” Edwards said. “You’ve got to have good people.”
Earlier this month, the Coyotes signed goaltender Curtis McElhinney, defensemen Nathan Oystrick, Dean Arsene and Tyler Eckford and forwards Alex Bolduc and Matt Watkins to two-way contracts, which means all of those players could end up in Portland.
McElhinney went 9-13-1 last season and complied a 2.99 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage while playing in the NHL for the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks.
Oystrick helped the Chicago Wolves win a Calder Cup in 2008 and Arsene helped the Hershey Bears win a Calder Cup in 2009.
Eckford had two goals and 10 assists in 37 AHL games with the Albany Devils.
Bolduc played parts of three NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, and Watkins had 15 goals and 20 assists in 64 games with San Antonio last season.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]