Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hiring coach comes first

That should be Cheveldayoff's top priority, and here's hoping it's Maurice

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CALGARY -- It's a long, thorny to-do list Kevin Cheveldayoff will have in front of him this summer.

The Jets might be done on the ice but the GM is about to get extremely busy.

 

1. Hire a coach. 2. Solve that pesky goaltending problem. 3. Sign Olli Jokinen or begin to look at replacement options. 4. Figure out whether Alex Burmistrov is ready to come back to Winnipeg, and if so, how to make it happen. 5. Decide whether it's time to shake up this underachieving core and swap out one of the Jets big names.

The tasks don't stop here. GMs, whether they win the Stanley Cup or run an organization that has missed the post-season seven seasons running, must always be moving and making decisions.

First and foremost is the hiring of a head coach for next season. This decision is not only the first order of business, but it will affect so many others. If Paul Maurice is back, he'll have input on some personnel issues and may even have a wish list of his own for Cheveldayoff to consider.

If Maurice wants Jokinen back or thinks he can crack the Burmistrov code, Cheveldayoff may head in those directions. What if the coach thinks a trade is needed to spark his core? Maybe Maurice thinks Ondrej Pavelec can carry the load for a playoff qualifier. Or may he thinks Pavelec must go. All these discussions must take place between head coach and GM. Quickly.

Expect a decision from Maurice on his future with the Jets in the next 10-14 days.

Presumably, Maurice will remain in Winnipeg next week and conduct exit meetings with players and staff. He'll then return to Columbus, Ohio and sit down with his family and discuss whether their future includes a move to Winnipeg.

If Maurice is interested in the job and Cheveldayoff has determined Maurice is his man, they need to talk contract and see if a deal can be reached. Soon.

Qualified candidates will soon be on the market and if Cheveldayoff needs to go coach hunting, he'll want to be unfettered.

By the same token, if the Winnipeg job, for whatever reason, isn't to be Maurice's, he'll want to be in position to look at other openings.

My guess is Cheveldayoff wants Maurice back and would like to offer him a contract.

If this is accurate, I'd expect the two to sit down next week and discuss the parameters of a contract and get as close to doing a deal as they can without actually signing anything. Then, if Maurice and his family decide Winnipeg is a fit, they can all fly back for a contract signing and press conference.

So, what's the going rate for a coach like Maurice? An agent who represents coaches in the NHL told me Friday a vet like Maurice should command in the neighbourhood of a four-year contract beginning at a minimum of $1.25 million and rising as high as $1.7 million in the back end of the deal.

Time and money are wrapped up in this drama, but it's about to unfold fast. For what it's worth, I say Paul Maurice is behind the bench of the Winnipeg Jets when next season begins.

And that would be a good thing.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 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 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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