December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
If the stars and moons were to all align perfectly in Kevin Cheveldayoff's galaxy -- and that's always a big if in the whacked out world of the National Hockey League -- then by this time next week he'll have plugged a few gaping holes on the Winnipeg Jets roster.
The Jets' boss is still scrambling to upgrade the team's thin right side, even after swapping picks for Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. He has question marks on the third and fourth lines with Nik Antropov, Antti Miettinen, Mike Santorelli and Kyle Wellwood all becoming unrestricted free agents on Friday.
He'll likely need to find a replacement for veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey, also an unrestricted free agent, and -- while contract talks have continued with Al Montoya's agent this week -- it's possible the team may need to find another back-up goaltender for the second consecutive summer.
Oh, and there's the not-so-little matter of locking up restricted free agents who were made qualifying offers this week such as Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Alex Burmistrov, Eric Tangradi, Zach Redmond, Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda -- all of whom will take a substantial bite out of the team's salary cap.
and where you want to be in the short term and where you need to be in the long term.
Behind the scenes you are looking at the spreadsheets, you're seeing where all the financial commitments are, where they may go and what you need to do moving forward to piece together a good team'
-- Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff
So, yeah, 'frantic' doesn't even begin to describe how busy the next few hours and days are going to be for Cheveldayoff and the rest of Jets management.
"There's a lot of moving parts," Cheveldayoff said Wednesday. "There's Bogosian, there's other RFA (restricted free agent) contracts that need to get done, there's some spots up front that we still need to fill.
"In the cap world you have to try and balance different things for where you are at in the moment and where you want to be in the short term and where you need to be in the long term.
"Behind the scenes you are looking at the spreadsheets, you're seeing where all the financial commitments are, where they may go and what you need to do moving forward to piece together a good team."
All of which, in a roundabout way, brings us to Grant Clitsome -- an important third-pairing/depth defenceman -- signed to a new three-year, $6.2-million deal by the Jets Tuesday.
Over a career of scratching and fighting his way to the NHL -- and then scratching and fighting just to stay there -- Clitsome has learned a few things about himself and his game.
First and foremost, the 28-year-old knows he'll never be a candidate for the Norris Trophy. But, given the opportunity to shine and play some meaty minutes, Clitsome has proven to be reliable and durable.
In fact, after an iffy start to the 2013 season, Clitsome stepped up his game when bodies started dropping on the Jets defensive corps and in the last 33 games had 14 points, was plus 14 and averaged 21 minutes of ice time.
"As a 28-year-old defenceman -- younger than most of the defencemen in free agency that we had looked at and the potentials of what they might cost versus their age -- Grant was a good fit," Cheveldayoff said. "He was someone who showed his game was stronger when times got tough down the stretch and there were guys injured and his minutes increased. His game got better."
Clitsome said he was tempted to test free agency when the market opens on Friday, but all along wanted to get a deal done with Winnipeg. After all it was the Jets who scooped him up off waivers in 2012 and it was here where he stepped up his game.
"They took a chance on me when they picked me up on waivers and gave me an opportunity to show I can play in the league," Clitsome said. "The increased playing time was huge for me. Unfortunately for our team this year we lost Toby (Enstrom) for a good amount of time, but it definitely gave me the opportunity to step in and try and help the team out and try and prove I could play.
"It's been the story of my career to try and prove people wrong and show people I can play starting from where I was drafted and working my way up from there. It's something I've dealt with my whole career and I'm probably going to keep dealing with it."
At least now he'll deal with it with the security blanket of a three-year deal.
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A look at the Jets' collection of defencemen:
NAME AGE CONTRACT
Toby Enstrom 28 5 Yrs remaining at $5.75 million
Dustin Byfuglien 28 3 Yrs remaining at $5.2 million
Grant Clitsome 28 3 Yrs at $2.07 million
Mark Stuart 29 1 Yr remaining at $1.7 Million
Jacob Trouba 19 3 Yrs (Entry-level) at $1.83 million
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
NAME AGE 2013 CONTRACT
Zach Bogosian 22 $2.5 million
Zach Redmond 24 $875,000
Paul Postma 24 $550,000
Arturs Kulda 24 $550,000
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
NAME AGE 2013 CONTRACT
Ron Hainsey 32 $4.5 million
Derek Meech 29 $700,000
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2013 D1
Updated on Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 6:52 AM CDT:
Replaces photo, changes headline