Plenty to ponder ahead of deadline

Cheveldayoff has options before trade window closes on Monday


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A blockbuster move? A depth piece or two? Nothing at all?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2018 (1924 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A blockbuster move? A depth piece or two? Nothing at all?

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff says all options are on the table heading into Monday’s NHL trade deadline — and plenty of intrigue surrounds what the local squad might do. The Jets resemble a Stanley Cup contender and have the prime opportunity they’ve been building toward for years.

“I couldn’t tell you with a crystal ball what we’re going to be talking about Monday with respect to additions, or not, with our group,” Cheveldayoff said Tuesday in a wide-ranging conversation with the Free Press.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to decide whether to make a deal or stay with his current roster before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Cheveldayoff made it clear that while he’s willing to move draft picks and prospects to help his team win now, there are a few untouchables. While he wouldn’t identify them by name, one has to think young players such as Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic and 2017 first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen might be among them.

“We have assets within this organization — whether they’re picks or prospects — and there’s going to be a threshold that will be determined as to whether we will use them or not,” Cheveldayoff said. “There’s some assets within our organization that I will not use. If there’s the right fit, and the right deal, then certainly I’d be willing to do that. If the deal requires assets I will not move, then that deal may not happen.”

Names are flying around the NHL rumour mill of players the Jets might be interested in — from the likes of offensive stars such as Rick Nash and Mike Hoffman to more complementary pieces such as Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu, Michael Grabner and Andrew Shaw.

“Everything is heightened and focused and more poignant right now than at any other time,” Cheveldayoff said. “The key word is fit. I think you’re always looking for what opportunities are out there. But they do have to fit the structure, the dynamics that we have here and that have gotten us to this point.”

Salary is an area the Jets will have to watch closely. They’re projected to spend US$69.4 million of the US$75-million cap this season, which would leave them with about US$5.6 million. However, performance bonuses to young players could eat away approximately US$4.6 million of that based on projections, Cheveldayoff said.

“A million dollars today is maybe worth roughly four million dollars (prorated),” Cheveldayoff said.

So, fitting in someone carrying more than US$4 million per season could be tricky. Winnipeg would have to find a way to shed some salary, either by having a team eat some of it or by moving someone in return.

The Jets could get additional relief if they put a player on long-term injury. Going above the cap due to an excess of performance bonuses is allowed, but would count against next year’s cap.

Cheveldayoff said he also has to balance several other factors, including how a potential move could impact the team both on and off the ice.

For example, veteran forward Mathieu Perreault is already on record saying he doesn’t think moves are necessary, that the Jets already have the pieces in the organization to win, and that his experience in the past is that deadline moves usually don’t pay off.

Winnipeg’s captain offered his own take Tuesday.

“It could make it better, it could make it worse. It’s pretty delicate,” Blake Wheeler said. However, he made it clear the team would ultimately welcome any moves that Cheveldayoff decides are worth making.

“You can’t be scared of doing something just because you’re scared it might go the other way because you might make a move that is a home run and takes you to a level you wouldn’t have got to otherwise,” Wheeler said. “Ultimately we deal with the guys we have in our room. We like our group. If there’s something out there that makes us a better team, gives us a better chance going forward, obviously as players you welcome (it).”

Cheveldayoff said he does speak with Wheeler and other team leaders to “get a pulse of what’s going on.” He would also run various scenarios past head coach Paul Maurice before pulling the trigger on anything.

“You’re always in constant contact with your coach and have lots of discussions about pie in the sky and are there some realistic type of situations that may or may not come to fruition,” Cheveldayoff said.

Maurice said Tuesday he doesn’t worry about how a new player might fit into the room, but said fans shouldn’t assume the Jets will be active.

“I don’t think it’s automatic,” Maurice said.

“For a team like us that is still quite young, we also want them to play, balancing what you would do, what you would need, when you’re still learning about what some of these young guys can accomplish.”

Although the Jets do appear poised for success beyond this season, rather than just being a one-hit wonder, nothing is guaranteed.

Just look at last year’s Edmonton Oilers, who finally had a breakthrough season — only to go right back into the tank again this year.

When asked if the Oilers can serve as a cautionary tale and motivate the organization to do everything possible to win this year, Cheveldayoff said the vision of the franchise hasn’t changed.

“The ultimate plan is to win the Stanley Cup. But you first have to make the playoffs. That’s certainly what we’re focusing on right now. That’s why, much to the chagrin of a lot of people, it’s a workmanlike attitude here right now,” he said.

“We’re proud of this group and what they’ve accomplished but they’d be the first — and they have been the first — to tell you let’s just play this (next) game and let everything else fall into place.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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