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Players to Chevy: keep us along for the ride

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The Winnipeg Jets have sent their leader a message with their play of late and they don't want to be broken up and sold for parts.

Points in four straight games including three wins and the Jets have climbed to within a breath of the playoffs. Not too long ago it looked like they were fading and prime for a yard sale but today the little picture is beginning to cloud the big picture where the Winnipeg Jets and their suddenly real playoff hopes are concerned.

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Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been strident in his insistence the Jets will stick to their long term development plan and not trade futures for rental players to help his club chase a playoff berth.

Cheveldayoff has gone even further in suggesting his aim will be to collect draft picks at every turn.

"I'm always going to be trying to acquire assets. I'm always looking to make our team better for the future," Cheveldayoff said in a recent interview with the Free Press.

The strategy is sound but does get stretched a bit if the Jets continue to stay in the playoff mix.

Can Cheveldayoff peddle soon-to-be unrestricted free agents like Tanner Glass and Jim Slater for picks if the Jets are in the hunt? Normally the trading of key players such as these two would be a signal from the GM to the room that the boss has given up on the current season and has switched to planning for the future.

Cheveldayoff finds himself in limbo right now with his club making a charge for a playoff spot. He must protect the integrity of his roster and his dressing room first and consider offers for the future second. Or try to do both at the same time.

Experience

Both Glass and Slater told me on Tuesday they've loved their experience in Winnipeg so far and would be more than willing to sign extensions here if fair packages are presented.

The duo, along with linemate Chris Thorburn, have been a big part of the Jets hanging in the playoff picture for this long. They check, they fight and they lead. In many ways they have been the soul of this team, holding the group accountable and using sweat to make up where they're a little short in talent.

An NHL executive said Tuesday that Slater is a useful centre and depending on the market could bring as much as low second-round draft pick but more likely a third-round chip. On Glass he was more definitive saying he's a classic fourth liner with toughness and worth a fourth round pick in almost any market.

The Jets do have players with the St. John's IceCaps that could potentially fill holes left by these players allowing Cheveldayoff to consider getting the best of both ends, staying competitive while adding assets. There would be a downgrade associated with such a move but how much would remain to be seen and it's a risk Cheveldayoff might be willing to take if the offer was juicy enough.

The problem lies in the intangibles and how the room would react and it's clear dealing one or both of these two wouldn't go over well. The Jets have finally come to a place where they are pulling together and playing for one another. Breaking up the family would be hard to swallow.

In planning for the future it can't hurt to consider what a playoff run, even a short-lived one, can do for an organization and its players.

The Jets have made strides this season and Cheveldayoff assuredly can see that. He's tasked with making sure that growth continues and it's a delicate balance, one that might best be served by treading lightly over the next week.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2012 D1

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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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