Time to Jet
February 4, 2017 | 12:28am ET
By Josh Brewster
ANAHEIM, CA -- How much longer can Kevin Cheveldayoff take a patient,
conservative route? The Winnipeg Jets' GM faces exactly that question
as the trade deadline approaches.
With a high-scoring, exciting club, the Jets have got to be
legitimately tempted to make a splash at the trade deadline.
As March 1 looms, the Jets are a good candidate for taking a gamble to
propel the club into the playoffs and a memorable campaign. With 54
points, to date, bunched amidst playoff bubble teams in the west and a
coach on whom he can rely in Paul Maurice, it's got to be tempting for
Cheveldayoff to go for it.
Named GM when the club moved from Atlanta in 2011, Cheveldayoff has
taken the righteous path, building through the Draft. Aside from a
notable exception or two, he hasn't made a whole lot of trades.
Nonetheless, he proved capable of swinging a big deal when he dealt
Evander Kane to Buffalo for Tyler Myers in a huge package and further
proved his mettle when he smartly let Andrew Ladd seek greener
pastures in February one year ago.
The Ladd deal yielded a 6’7”, 231 lb. defenseman from the Blackhawks
in Logan Stanley, who won't see NHL ice until most likely next season.
Marko Dano also came along in the deal. He's green and has a ways to
go (three goals in 29 games), but looks promising.
The Jets are scoring at a fever pitch, with four players occupying
spots amidst the NHL's top 25 in Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nick
Ehlers and Blake Wheeler. All but Wheeler were drafted by Cheveldayoff.
The club is seventh overall in scoring and has scored five or more
goals on nine occasions. Laine has emerged as one of the most exciting
young players in an age where youth rules and has energized linemate
Scheifele to become what everyone hoped he'd be.
The defense is generally solid, with Dustin Byfuglien adding a Brent
Burns "rover" quality at times; a big, tough guy who can rush the puck
in the offensive zone, hit and score. Myers will likely return from a
lower-body injury before season's end. Jets draftees Toby Enstrom and
Jacob Trouba pair for a decent second- or third-pairing. There's no
reason that this defense can't hold water for a round or even two with
The goaltending, however, is the Achilles' heel; an impediment that
the Jets might as well try to overcome right now. There's no reason
that a Jets club, with a healthy amount of cap space at present, can't
bust a move.
Ranking 26th in goals against (3.07) puts Winnipeg in the ranks of the
St. Louis Blues, who wonder what happened to Jake Allen; the Dallas
Stars, who wonder how $10M isn't enough to buy decent goaltending; and
the Philadelphia Flyers, all three teams more than good enough to
contend for a playoff spot, but shoddy performance between the pipes
-- the Jets are still (54 pts) within striking distance of the
postseason in the west, thanks largely to the salary cap age.
The team's three-goalie rotation has been brutal.
Ondrej Pavelec ($3.9M cap hit) spent the first half of the season in
the AHL with Manitoba. Pavelec has gone 4-2-0 in six games since his
return and is a UFA in July. He appears to have gotten the message
implicit in his demotion, but his career is wrought with
Michael Hutchinson is expendable. He earns $1.15M this season and
next, but that deal isn't a millstone around the club's neck, while
2012 draftee Connor Hellebuyck has three shutouts, but has not matched
his rookie campaign, and becomes an RFA at season's end.
Enter Tampa's Ben Bishop via trade?
Earning $5.95M on the last year of his deal, Bishop is subject of
trade talk constantly now because he's an unrestricted free agent in
July. Trading for Bishop should be a no-brainer for the Jets. If Tampa
is willing to take a prospect and a high pick, for example, it would
be well worth the gamble (and Tampa might be happy to shed salary).
If Bishop fails, he can sign elsewhere. If he succeeds, the Jets can
look forward to next fall and dispense with the bottleneck they've got
in the nets right now.
If not Bishop, taking a flier on basically any big-league goaltender
would beat what the Jets have in the nets at present.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Jets have well over $5M in cap space
at this point. Cheveldayoff has proven his mettle at the Draft table
and has a respectable record in terms of the trades he's made despite
his smart and conservative bent, which has served him well in fielding
a respectable club that doesn't mortgage its future for instant
With rookie phenom/freak Laine energizing the franchise, wouldn't at
least a few nights of playoff revenue, not to mention a rallying point
for a dedicated fan base, be enticing enough for Cheveldayoff to swing
Take serious note of the fact that the Jets are 13-4-1 against the
Central Division, which has to stir Cheveldayoff's imagination. They
can't sell any more tickets in their small building, but the fan base
would be sky-high with an eye toward the future should they appear in
the postseason and leverage all this scoring talent they've developed.
Assuming that Wheeler, Laine, Enstrom or Scheifele won't be dealt --
and they won't -- why not serve up a second, or even a first-round
pick for a decent goaltender? Why not beef up the defense and get
involved in the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes (or maybe inquire about
Rental or long-term, now is a great moment for the all-too-quiet Jets
to make some noise.
Cheveldayoff should be applauded for sticking to his plan. Now,
however, it's time for the Jets to lift off. This is not about
expecting a Stanley Cup. It's time for Cheveldayoff to go for broke
and make a smart move or two and take a shot at extending the team's
calendar into late April or May.
Josh Brewster is a Columnist for The Fourth Period
and the host of Anaheim Ducks' postgame radio show since 2006. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.