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Open to making changes

Cheveldayoff coy about trade talks at draft combine

Posted: 05/30/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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TORONTO -- The window will soon be open for those out-of-the-running NHL teams to make changes.

Thursday at the league's draft and scouting combine, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff sounded like he's very interested in those discussions.

Now that's not to say the Jets GM is sure he'll soon make a trade but we can tell you at no time did he raise the idea standing pat was a good way to the future.

"After all the review since the season ended, are you in a dealing mood?" was the question Cheveldayoff was asked.

"For all the changes happening in the league, I think there's a strong appetite among teams to want to talk about making changes," he said, noting there are seven new GMs in place. "We are certainly in that mix of talking, to find out if there's a way to trade, whether it's a big asset, a middle asset, whatever asset. You sit and talk to see if there's a chance that something can fit with something you're looking for.

"I think with this year's crop of free agents, you're really starting to see where the trend of locking up players for long term has lessened the number of players that would have otherwise entered free agency.

'Until you know what every other team is thinking, it's hard to say what the reality is of something happening or not.'

-- Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

"And that's leading a lot of teams to think they might have to make a trade to do something, as opposed to simply relying on free agency. Not that we've been huge players in free agency in the past, but I can say it hasn't been for lack of wanting to be."

After a campaign of 37-35-10 and a third straight season in Winnipeg out of the playoffs -- make it seven if you embrace your Thrashers history -- there has been ample clamouring for anything but the status quo.

The annual entry draft, at the end of June in Philadelphia, presents as good an opportunity as any for teams in such a mood.

The Jets have the ninth pick in this year's first round. Could that be a starting point for trade discussions and is that pick in play?

"I think any time you're in a situation like this, where there's lots of talk and there are new GMs in the league... and different organizations are in different cycles that need different things, it would not be factual to say I've got a deal in place, but I wouldn't be totally truthful if I told you I wasn't openly and actively in conversations in any regard.

"You always are, but until you know what every other team is thinking, it's hard to say what the reality is of something happening or not."

Thinking about pulling the trigger is a long way from actually pulling it, but word on the street is Cheveldayoff is in a talkative mood these days.

This week in Toronto, he and his hockey staff are busy interviewing candidates for the upcoming draft. The league has invited 119 players with 1996 (or late 1995) birthdays to spend the week interviewing with the 30 teams and then, on Saturday, to go through a regimen of fitness tests.

The Jets, Cheveldayoff said, will have interviewed about 85 of those youngsters once they are done today. Each encounter lasts 15 to 20 minutes, just a little longer than speed-dating.

"You have a consensus already of what the player is on the ice and the regional scout has interviewed him already in almost every case," he said. "It's not the first touch point for the player.

"Here, it's more structured and you're in a room with a lot of the staff and for me the big thing is that you want to hear from the player what he thinks about himself and his game and you match it up to see if it's what you're thinking.

"Through four days of these things, you have to take good notes because they do run one into the other. And I think it's long for the players, too. Some guys have 30 interviews. Of the players we've talked to, some have had 30 and most of them are in the high 20s and some are in the teens."

Has the GM, in his three drafts for the Jets so far, found value in the interviews?

"Yes, you find out a lot about a kid," he said. "You can only put so much stock into an interview because the game is played on the ice but you do learn a lot.

"I go back to the (Mark) Scheifele interview. We had taken over (the Atlanta Thrashers franchise in 2011) and not had the benefit of the combine.

"I remember when we met for the organization's second time when we were in Minnesota for that draft, our first time and I remember asking him at the end of the interview, 'Just tell me how you pronounce your name,' because I was sitting there thinking that if I was calling his name, I was sure going to pronounce his name properly. I shared the joke with him afterwards, and as I was walking to the podium, he was sitting off to my right and I walked by and winked at him."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2014 0

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