GM rolled dice on Enstrom

No guarantee Knights would pass

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CHICAGO — Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff admits he was feeling the heat the day before the expansion draft, with no firm deal in place to keep veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom from the clutches of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/06/2017 (1983 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CHICAGO — Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff admits he was feeling the heat the day before the expansion draft, with no firm deal in place to keep veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom from the clutches of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Cheveldayoff, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, said he had lots of conversations with Vegas assistant-GM Kelly McCrimmon in the days leading up to the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft but didn’t hammer anything out until the very end.

Late Tuesday, the deal was cut with the Golden Knights, allowing Winnipeg to keep the veteran Swedish blue-liner on their roster.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets’ General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff

Vegas laid off of the likes of Enstrom, Mark Dano, Shawn Matthias and a few lesser pieces Wednesday night, claiming the rights to 34-year-old free-agent forward Chris Thorburn instead.

But the Jets had to agree to fall back in tonight’s NHL draft for that to happen.

Vegas acquired Winnipeg’s first-round (13th overall) pick in tonight’s draft and a third-round choice in the 2019 draft, while the Knights turned over a 2017 first-round (24th overall) pick acquired earlier from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Until that happened, however, the left-shooting Enstrom, a veteran of 10 seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets, was vulnerable the moment he waived the no-movement clause of his contract.

“(Enstrom and his agent) knew they were walking a tightrope without a safety net,” Cheveldayoff said. “I talked to them and told them I would do my very best, within reason, and they weren’t going to hold me to something that was going to jeopardize the franchise. And I wasn’t going to do something that was going to jeopardize the franchise moving forward.

“We grinded a long period of time and ultimately never came to a final deal until very late in the process.”

He said the fact Vegas had leverage made for some tense times.

“When your outgoing and ingoing calls involve one phone number, you’re certainly waiting for that one phone number to ring,” he said. “It was an interesting dynamic to know that they could control it,” he said. “They know exactly what’s going on with every single player on your team and every single team in the league. There’s probably not many secrets that they don’t know about your organization.”

Vegas was required to choose at least one player from each of the 30 established NHL clubs.

When Enstrom waived his NMC, it allowed the Jets to protect seven forwards (Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler), three defencemen (Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers) and one goaltender (Connor Hellebuyck) instead of the alternative formula that would protect eight skaters and a goaltender.

Cheveldayoff said he owes a debt of gratitude to Enstrom for considering what was in the best interest of the team.

“It really wasn’t a long decision process for Toby when he understood the ramifications of maybe having to lose a Lowry or a Perreault or an Armia or a Copp or a Dano,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to maybe what the general fans don’t get to see, or even you guys reporting on us every day don’t get to see. It is a tight group.

“There is a lot of belief in the general direction of the team.”

Cheveldayoff now turns his full attention to today’s draft and the reality of either picking 11 spots lower than the organization had planned, or making a deal that involves sliding up, down or out of the round altogether if the right opportunity presents itself.

This year, in particular, teams have very different lists of draft-eligible prospects after the first three or four players — likely led by No.1-ranked Brandon Wheat Kings centre Nolan Patrick — are off the board.

“The farther you go from the top picks, the more variability there becomes,” Cheveldayoff said. “It does happen where there will be someone on our list that we’ll have at 30 that some team will draft at 10. Where we’re currently sitting, I’ve had a couple of conversations with a couple of GMs of maybe moving up if a guy slides. You focus on a group at 13 that you think might be there, so you may look at saying is there an opportunity to move up.

“Conversely, at 24 when you do the due diligence… now you are looking at another group of players and maybe we can slide back even a little more and pick up another asset and get someone that we think is good. It truly gets into more of a development phase. The lower you start drafting, it is more of a development situation and a projection situation. So, you’re not counting on the guy to definitely step into your lineup tomorrow.”

The first round begins at Chicago’s United Center at 6 p.m., and rounds two through seven take place Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

 

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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Updated on Thursday, June 22, 2017 8:41 PM CDT: Full edit

Updated on Friday, June 23, 2017 9:35 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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