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February 4, 2017 | 12:28am ET
Time to Jet
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 67, 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 some breaks.

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 inconsistency.

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 gratification.

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 something substantial?

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 Mike Green)?

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.

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