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Deal Chevy in this summer

Time for well-stocked Jets to join the off-season action

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Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

NEW YORK -- Kevin Cheveldayoff has shown us he can waltz. Now it's time see if he can do the Hustle.

The patient Jets GM has a plan and he's been resolute in his approach to repairing the years of damage inflicted upon the franchise now known as the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets were bankrupt of depth at both the NHL and AHL level when Cheveldayoff was hired to steer the hockey end of the franchise. The first-time NHL GM's top priority was to restock the organization. His mantra has been to draft, develop and retain his players.

Andrew Ladd, Ondrej Pavelec and Evander Kane have all been signed to long-term deals and Cheveldayoff is working on new deals for Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler.

Draft picks Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba and Adam Lowry are coming on stream this fall and Cheveldayoff has 10 picks, including six in the first three rounds, in Sunday's entry draft.

The foundation is not fully entrenched but it's in a much better place than when Cheveldayoff began his reclamation project.

There does appear, however, to be a window for Cheveldayoff to enhance his spade work with some splashier manoeuvres. He has assets and cap space with which to work. This could be the Summer of Chevy.

There is also a more volatile marketplace than the NHL has seen in years, due to the reduction of the salary cap to $64 million from $70 million. While many teams must reduce payroll or hold constant, Cheveldayoff is positioned to add talent, both in the form of draft-pick prospects and high-priced players via trade or free agency. He's a man with options and the cash to explore them.

The Jets recently gave head coach Claude Noel a one-year contract extension and it was quite clear in his comments afterward that a playoff berth is expected this season. But with the Jets moving to a new home in the west, the landscape is unknown.

The Jets were a one-line team last season with one of the league's worst goal differentials. They missed the playoffs in one of the softest divisions and, unless the personnel is improved, it's difficult to see that changing this season in a division that will include the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks as well as playoff teams in the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild.

The Jets will most likely be fighting for a wild-card berth unless Cheveldayoff can add some key pieces -- and there seems to be an appetite within the organization to do just that.

The draft is the first piece of business and with a pick in the first round, three in the second and two in the third, Cheveldayoff has assets to try and move up for a higher selection. Top three would be very expensive, but there could be a deal for the Jets to move from 13th to somewhere in the five-to-eight slot.

Cheveldayoff says he hasn't contemplated dealing talented but underachieving Dustin Byfuglien, but his name pops up in discussions with other clubs. It's also no secret the club and young centre Alex Burmistrov aren't seeing eye-to-eye right now. Both could be intriguing trade possibilities.

Teams with cap issues might be looking to deal roster players for draft picks and Cheveldayoff is flush in that department.

Don't expect a New Orleans Saints everything-but-the-kitchen-sink for the right to select Ricky Williams type of deal but moving one of his seconds and one of his thirds is an option Cheveldayoff will be happy to discuss. He collected these picks to open doors. Now he's standing in front of those doors and studying which he'd like to go through.

Don't be fooled into thinking Cheveldayoff isn't a deal-maker because he's remained mostly quiet since taking over the Jets. The old maxim is to never trade from a position of weakness and that is where the Jets have been until now. Cheveldayoff was prudent to bide his time.

But this weekend, Winnipeg definitely finds itself in a position of strength. Cheveldayoff has deftly positioned the chess pieces.

We've seen him put a plan in place and stick to it. Now it's time to see him operate outside that box.

We're not expecting Cheveldayoff to Tango but how about a little Electric Slide?

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 0

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Updated on Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM CDT: Added photo

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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