Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GM won't make a trade for sake of making a trade

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PHILADELPHIA -- The pressure of a lot of balls in the air, losing seasons and the busiest time of the year for hockey executives has resulted in some GMs making mistakes with long-lasting implications. This is what Kevin Cheveldayoff must guard against in the coming hours and days.

Certainly, the Jets GM would like to make a trade to improve his team but his deal requirements make up a long list. His price for any of his young and locked-up players is high. It must remain so.

Pressure from fans, players and media can't soften the GM's resolve. Knowing what we do about Cheveldayoff, it won't. He'll get his price or he'll walk away.

Argue all you want about his record so far as GM of the Jets, but his unwillingness to make a deal he doesn't like is a strength that may one day be lauded.

Cheveldayoff is like the sitting politician who makes hard decisions and gets smeared by his constituents in the moment and then is later commended by historians for having the courage of his convictions. Of course, for a sports executive, winning is the only currency that ultimately matters and Cheveldayoff must eventually produce results or both the present and future will be unkind.

The Jets are approaching crisis mode in the minds of many, and winning can't be too far off or the unrest will bubble over. The work, plan and patience of Cheveldayoff to date is commendable. But he must know at some point it all has to translate into wins. Cheveldayoff needs a few players to take major steps forward, or he has to boost the process with a sharp swap or two.

The stakes are getting higher for the Jets GM, and it's right now that he must be at his best.

There has been much talk about Evander Kane getting traded out of Winnipeg, and some events that transpired Thursday suggest there is even more internal pressure on such a transaction, but Cheveldayoff has to be true to himself and his organization.

Does Kane want out? Maybe.

Do the Jets want to trade him? Maybe.

But far more important on this front is the value of Kane and getting an equal return.

Kane is a 22-year-old player with a 30-goal season on his resumé and a friendly contract that gets better by the season with still four years to go. Cheveldayoff needs a productive top-six forward or top-four defenceman at a similar age, cost and term to swing a deal. That market is limited and talking to teams around the NHL this week, Cheveldayoff is not interested in dropping his price or adjusting his tack and accepting futures.

The question was put to Cheveldayoff on Thursday whether Kane had demanded a trade, and it hit a nerve with the usually unflappable GM. First he called the question unfair and then provided an answer that said everything but no.

Soon after this exchange, Kane favourited a fan's tweet suggesting Flyers GM Ron Hextall bring him to Philadelphia. Later in the day, Kane unfavourited the tweet, suggesting the humour was lost on others and displeasure may have been relayed.

Kane's agent, Winnipeg native Craig Oster, did not respond to a request for comment.

Is everything hunky dory in Jet-land? After three straight years of missing the post-season, how could it be?

Kane's happiness is immaterial to what Cheveldayoff is trying to achieve at this moment and the same can be said for anyone on the Jets roster.

This team has produced results that cannot be characterized as anything but poor. No one on the roster has been a consistently dominant performer. There are holes throughout the lineup and the clock is ticking.

Does this add up to Cheveldayoff needing to panic? Certainly not.

Cheveldayoff needs to make moves from a position of strength and can't be bullied from within his own organization or elsewhere.

Strong drafting has put him in a position where he has a young puck-moving defenceman in Josh Morrissey on the verge of readiness, which makes players such as Zach Bogosian and Toby Enstrom more dispensable.

Having assets to fill holes in the roster made by a trade gives Cheveldayoff a position of strength and can allow a trade to lead to an immediate step forward.

Cheveldayoff needs to make decisions that improve his roster. He's done that so far. The Jets are far and away a deeper and more balanced organization than when he took over.

To date, they haven't been much better on the ice. That's the next trick to be turned and the results upon which Cheveldayoff will ultimately be judged.

The Jets are approaching a crossroads and how Cheveldayoff navigates will determine his future and that of his team. Good or bad.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2014 C2

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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
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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