Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets still prowling for scoring punch

But signing Bogosian to new deal the priority

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DON'T expect the Winnipeg Jets to head to the free-agent check-out line just yet.

Although the franchise locked up Blake Wheeler before he went to arbitration and is continuing negotiations on a new deal with Zach Bogosian, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn't ruled out sifting through what's left on the free agent market and keeping his ears open to any opportunities to add some scoring punch to his top two lines.

"You're always looking for that," Cheveldayoff said Tuesday. "It's got to be the right fit for the group of guys that you have. You want it to mesh together. If you look at the roster right now there is probably some room if you could add some forwards. We think our defence is pretty deep with respect to the (NHL) depth side of things.

"Certainly if the right opportunity presents itself at forward or defence we're going to look at it. You're always looking, you're always talking. But to say what you see today is what you'll see tomorrow... it's hard to say at this time."

The Jets have added Tanner Glass, Derek Meech and Randy Jones in free agency while bolstering their depth by trading for Eric Fehr and Kenndal McArdle.

But the next item on their to-do list is to try to sign Bogosian to a new deal. Cheveldayoff has already spoken highly of the big defenceman, who just turned 21 last week and has already played in 199 NHL games.

"The conversations are continuing with his agent," Cheveldayoff said. "There's no time frame set in place to have that one done by. It's a summer-negotiation type thing. Everyone's respectful of the fact this is a down time for players and agents and management... those talks will continue and they've been good.

"It's playing out exactly how we thought it would. It's going to take some time. Each one of the negotiations -- the (Andrew) Ladd, the Wheeler, the regular RFAs (restricted free agents) and Zach all have different nuances to them."

NO TO HNIDY: Cheveldayoff spoke recently with free agent defenceman Shane Hnidy, a product of Neepawa who appeared in three playoff games with the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins this spring.

"Great player, certainly has had a good career. But from our standpoint and the depth that we have right now I'm not sure there's room," Cheveldayoff said. "If certain things presented themselves he's someone we could take a look at, but right now we're probably not focusing on that slot and that position."

ROUNDING OUT THE STAFF: The Jets are still conducting interviews for one more assistant coach position on Claude Noel's staff with the possibility of an announcement later this week or early next.

TOUGH TO WATCH: Here's Blake Wheeler on being traded by the Bruins and then watching his ex-teammates hoist the Stanley Cup in June:

"I wasn't necessarily cheering for them, but I wasn't cheering against them," he said. "I played with all those guys and was definitely happy to see them succeed and come through and win. But it definitely hurts you to not be a part of it and that's unfortunately something that's part of sports and you just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on.

"It definitely narrows your focus a little bit seeing the guys you went to battle with for 2 1/2 years come away with the trophy. It makes you want to get your name on it, too.

"That's the goal, trying to turn this organization around and try to compete and win one of those pretty soon."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2011 C2

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 9:49 AM CDT: Picture changed

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