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A history of silence

Cheveldayoff plays familiar role, stands pat on trade deadline day

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There were possibilities and a willingness to make a deal but the Winnipeg Jets stood pat on NHL trade deadline day.

The Jets did manage to sign veteran defenceman Mark Stuart to a four-year contract extension worth $10.5 million and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff used that to offset whatever disappointment there might have been over not being able to enhance the quality of the team that is pushing for a Western Conference playoff berth.

"The leadership he provides, the type of person he is, he is what the Winnipeg Jets are about when it comes to having a character-type person," Cheveldayoff said in announcing the new deal for Stuart, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

It still didn't seem enough to offset Wednesday's lingering unsettled feeling, given the serious knee injury suffered Tuesday night by rookie centre Mark Scheifele and the Jets' precarious position in the Western Conference standings, one point behind the eighth-place Dallas Stars.

Cheveldayoff said the Jets were buyers, not sellers at the deadline.

"We approached it a little bit differently than in years past when it became apparent that we were a team that was back in the playoff conversation," the GM said.

The GM said the team was aggressive -- it's believed the Jets did put in an unsuccessful waiver claim on centre Cory Conacher, who was claimed by Buffalo -- and right in the mix on several avenues, even with deadline-day high prices for some players, but in the end, consummated nothing.

"I was close to essentially paying some of those prices," Cheveldayoff said. "The prices are set by the marketplace and by the willingness of the teams and by what might be out there versus who are the buys and those kind of things, and the type of players as well.

"You're seeing a lot of the high-end free-agent guys, there's lots of speculation on where they would go, where they wouldn't go. Again, the prices are very steep but sometimes it's not just the prices, but sometimes it's the quantity and you have to go within some parameters or you can really fall off course."

So in the end, he didn't fall off his well-documented course of refusing to part with youth and the team's long-term future for a quick fix that could get them into the playoffs.

Cheveldayoff may not have had enough time to lay enough groundwork with Scheifele's knee injury coming less than 24 hours before the deadline.

"We feel comfortable with how we approached things, how we had to shift gears a little bit to react to the injury situation and again we pretty much stayed the course as far as our thought process was going to be," he said. "We did have to pull out of some things that we were deep into once the injury did happen and maybe had to re-engage in a different fashion."

But the GM did say he was in the UFA rental-player market and not that interested in parting with any of the five (Devin Setoguchi, Chris Thorburn, Olli Jokinen, Adam Pardy, Al Montoya) of his own.

He was also kicking tires on some options to add a centre, but that's far more difficult than most imagine in the NHL.

"It wasn't so much the prices (there), it was the availability," Cheveldayoff said. "Not a lot of centres of the quality we were going to need to replace Mark's production or fit into the mix and the type of player we were going to look for."

Did Cheveldayoff believe his day was a failure?

"I guess it depends on how you want to look at it," he said. "A lot of people would love to look at the fact that we didn't make a big deadline acquisition as a failure. A lot of them would look at the glass half full and say they didn't sit there and sell.

"They believe that this group has earned the opportunity to try to move forward. So I guess I'll have to let you decide on how you think that is. I certainly feel very comfortable standing here today knowing the options that were in front of me, knowing the decisions I made to move forward with and seeing how the guys have played over the last period of time."

Sticking to the game plan

A look at what the Jets have done on the three trade deadline days since their rebirth:
2012

— Traded D Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for second- and third-round draft choices in 2013
— The picks were parlayed through another trade with Washington and used to select J.C. Lipon, Jimmy Lodge, Jan Kostalek and Tucker Poolman.
— Picked up D Grant Clitsome off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets
2013
— No trades; picked up F Mike Santorelli off waivers from the Florida Panthers.
2014
— Signed Mark Stuart to contract extension; no trades or waiver-wire pickups.

Some issues Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff addressed in his press conference Wednesday:

Did your prospects comes up in trade discussions?

"Certainly life would have been a lot easier if we wanted to throw live-body prospects into it. Those are closer to being ready for a lot of teams and whenever you can throw live-body prospects in it gets the attention of the other teams. We weren’t really going to do any of that."

How much interest was there in your UFAs?

"There was some interest. We could have gone into a selling mode very, very easily. When you get into that mode you have to be extremely aggressive with it. We decided to keep our own rental players for now and we’ll see if they become permanent players as we move forward."

On whether there have been any talks with C Olli Jokinen, one of those pending UFAs?

"Those are things that... I’ve had a discussion with pretty much every UFA’s agent. There are different parameters for each one. All of them were discussions, none of them were negotiations."

Was there any interest in your team’s core players?

"Lots of guys are always asking about your players and we’re asking about (theirs) but I never got into serious discussions about any of the core players, contrary to what Twitter would want everyone to believe."

— Tait, Campbell

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2014 D3

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