Chevy’s time to shine

Uncertain future means Jets GM has to keep his ear to ground

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.. -- Like Jackie Gleason in his memorable turn as Minnesota Fats, Kevin Cheveldayoff will change his shirt and wash his face before taking his chair at the head of the Jets table here in Fort Lauderdale Friday night.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/06/2015 (2715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.. — Like Jackie Gleason in his memorable turn as Minnesota Fats, Kevin Cheveldayoff will change his shirt and wash his face before taking his chair at the head of the Jets table here in Fort Lauderdale Friday night.

No felt and no cue as in The Hustler but lots on the line for Cheveldayoff’s Winnipeg Jets. For a man who works mostly in the shadows, this is his time up front. No Bryan Little or Tyler Myers. This is Chevy’s show.

Cheveldayoff was forced to abandon his legion of scouts this week to attend a three-hour GMs meeting before skipping a Las Vegas awards show aptly described as entirely un-Chevy-like.

Andrew Ladd

Forty-eight hours away from his draft list and the minds that have put it together. No head scout Marcel Comeau at his side to discuss the merits of one prospect or another. They’ve been preparing for this weekend and watching the available players for years. But now, in the final minutes, every second counts.

Cheveldayoff boarded a red-eye flight from Nevada to South Florida late Tuesday night, arriving just in time for breakfast Wednesday morning and the beginning of his management team’s final pre-draft meetings.

No time for a nap, just a quick refresher and down to business.

Cheveldayoff will have a number of sharks swimming in his direction. Agents and rival GMs will all want a piece of him prior to the opening round of this year’s draft on Friday night.

Cheveldayoff has two picks in the first round, and while history suggests he’ll use them both to continue stocking his prospect pool, we also now know he’s capable of structuring a multi-level swap such as this past winter’s Evander Kane blockbuster.

Perhaps over a roll of the dice in Vegas, another GM whispered something in his ear that acts as the seed leading to a major deal. Maybe Cheveldayoff moves his two first-round picks and climbs higher. Or maybe, he uses one of them to package with a prospect for a roster player.

Is there a huge deal in the offing? Will he be trading Dustin Byfuglien or his captain, Andrew Ladd, both of whom are heading into the final year of their contracts?

Anything is possible but expect this weekend to be about draft picks. As for Ladd and Byfuglien, Cheveldayoff has time to investigate extending them and keeping them in Winnipeg. Expect him to exhaust this opportunity before turning to the possibility of moving one or both of his team’s most impactful players.

This will be a riveting chapter in Cheveldayoff’s tenure of running the Jets. When he uses words such as loyalty and character, he means them. He also understands the business end of hockey and spending too much cash and term to retain any player is a mistake in today’s salary-cap world. His experience in Chicago following the team’s first Stanley Cup taught him that.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Expect the price to be high if the Jets are asked about Dustin Byfuglien or Andrew Ladd as trade bait leading up to the draft.

But that story begins to unfold later.

The draft is where Cheveldayoff has made his greatest strides on behalf of the Jets. In many ways, this is the most critical week of the year for the Jets as an organization. And with the prospect of expansion and two more teams fighting over the minnows in hockey’s soon be over-crowded pond, this work takes on a heightened importance.

The future, something Cheveldayoff always has an eye on, is now uncertain and new plans must be drawn up and then hatched. NHL GMs are now living in a pre-expansion world and there are many unknowns.

Best to add ammo before pulling the trigger. Or even picking the target.

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

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