Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chevy's focus: inking Jet RFAs

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HE'S got picks, cap space, a pile of restricted free agents to get inked and a number of unrestricted free agents soon to hit the market.

Most of all, it should be said Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some wiggle room and options in what most are expecting will be a busy few days leading up to Sunday's NHL draft and beyond into a summer of free agency impacted by a drop in the salary cap.

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"There's just so many things right now that could present themselves," said Cheveldayoff. "We have flexibility. We have flexibility in the number of contracts, we have flexibility in some room in the cap side of things.

"But the major focus right now is making sure we lock up our RFAs and we're working hard at doing that."

The Jets have nine restricted free agents including Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, Alex Burmistrov, Eric Tangradi, Zach Redmond, Paul Postma, Anthony Peluso and Arturs Kulda. Worth noting is eight players who spent most of their time in St. John's are also RFAs: Jason Gregoire, Patrice Cormier, Will O'Neill, Eric O'Dell, Eddie Pasquale, Chris Carrozzi, Max Macenauer and Tomas Kubalik.

"We have reached out to all the RFAs' respective agents," said Cheveldayoff. "They're all going to be very different, some are going to be shorter term, some are going to be longer terms... A lot of factors that come into play, there's obviously money, there's term, there's where the person is at in free agency and in their respective careers and where they think they are going to go in their respective careers, too. To say when they're all going to get done, hard to say at this point."

Of the nine unrestricted free agents eligible to hit the market July 5 -- Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Mike Santorelli, Antti Miettinen, Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome, Al Montoya, Derek Meech and Aaron Gagnon -- Cheveldayoff said Clitsome and Montoya's groups have been contacted about a return. He expects Hainsey to test the market.

"But that's not to say some of those other guys could not fall back into consideration here," said Cheveldayoff, "depending on how things do shake out."

Other items of interest from Cheveldayoff's chat with the media:

  • The Jets pick 13th in the first round and Cheveldayoff has fielded calls about moving up or down in the first round.

"Actually, there's surprising opportunities to move in both directions," he said. "But my focus, standing here right now, would be to see if there's an opportunity to move up in the draft if the right kind of player was there and if we had the assets that could work to move... from 13 into a very high pick is a difficult thing to do, but there's different ways you could potentially go about doing that."

  • The Jets have their first-rounder, three seconds and two thirds in the draft -- 10 picks overall -- that could be peddled to move up or upgrade the current roster. Like just about every team, Cheveldayoff would kill to land another top-six forward.

"I have told the amateur scouting staff that we may not be drafting all those players because if there's an opportunity to use one of those assets that we've accumulated to find a player that fits both contractually and financially, then we're going to try and make that happen."

  • The Jets will not be using a compliance buyout on any of their current players' contracts.
  • On speculation Dustin Byfuglien being untradeable because of his weight:

"Buff is a very unique player. There's no question he has the size that a lot of players and a lot of teams would covet in this league... I could see where teams would have interest or rumours would start, but it's not something I've contemplated or talked about in great detail with any other team about trading him."

-- Ed Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 C2

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