With the trade deadline just over a month away, the talk of the NHL is going to be what moves are teams looking to make. Which teams will look to add that extra piece for a playoff push, and which ones are going to sell the farm for the future?
For the Winnipeg Jets, they are in a situation that is rare for them. Instead of on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, the Jets are firmly entrenched in a battle in the Western Conference’s Central Division.
But instead of looking to the future for this organization, we’re going to take some time looking to the past. The team has only been back in the NHL since 2011, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some impressive moves by general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff. In fact, we’re here to lay out the best moves, in no particular order, he’s made since taking over the GM duties upon the team’s return to Winnipeg.
*NOTE: These moves include trades, signings and hires*
Firing Claude Noel and Hiring Paul Maurice
There was no way a list of the organization’s best moves was going to be done without including this. Sure, you can say that when Claude Noel was the coach that he wasn’t given a fair shake due to the talent around him, but he did have much of the same talent that Paul Maurice has now.
Maurice is a coach, as stated before, that knows how to get his team ready to play. The players seem to love playing for the man, and it shows with the results put forth since his hiring late last season. The players don’t hang their heads when they get down, nor do they get into long stretches of poor play. Instead, they work through the on-ice issues, and come out better for it.
It’s no shock that Maurice is the second-youngest coach to win 500 NHL games, the man knows what he’s doing behind the bench. Maurice has the team fighting for their first playoff spot since coming back into the league, which makes his hiring an obvious choice for a “best moves” list.
Signing Michael Hutchinson
Ok, so it hasn’t even been a full season of work for the rookie goaltender, but it’s clear that Michael Hutchinson is a pretty darn good goaltender. With a 14-4-2 record in 21 appearances thus far, Hutchinson has been a big part for the success of a team that had a lot of questions at the goaltending position entering the year.
He’s posted a highly impressive 1.90 goals against average and a .935 save percentage this season which has firmly cemented himself as a contender for the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. After not getting much of a chance with the Bruins, Hutchinson is making Cheveldayoff look very smart with the two-year, $1.15 million contract he signed prior to this season. Not bad for a kid that started the 2013-14 season with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL.
Signing Mathieu Perreault
As with the case of Hutchinson, the signing of Mathieu Perreault can be viewed as a major reason why the Jets are as good as they are this season. Cheveldayoff signed the small forward to a three-year, $9-million contract on July 1, 2014 after he had spent the 2013-14 season with the Anaheim Ducks.
Entering the All-Star break, Perreault was the fifth-leading scorer on the Jets with 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 45 games. His 15 goals is good for third on the team, and includes a four-goal outing against the Florida Panthers. That four-goal performance was the first for the Jets/Thrashers franchise since Ilya Kovalchuk did it on November 11, 2005.
With his 29 points, Perreault is on pace to best his career high of 48 points from last season with the Ducks, which is something that the Jets are more than happy to see. If the 27-year old Quebec native can keep up this type of performance in the months and years to come, the Jets could have a special center on their hands.
Trading for Michael Frolik
When a fan looks at Michael Frolik, they don’t necessarily see a player worth writing home about. Sure, he had the 10-point postseason for the Blackhawks back in 2013 while helping his team win the Stanley Cup, but he’s not really a player that would usually be viewed as a core member of a team.
In Winnipeg, however, Frolik has turned into a pretty reliable piece to the puzzle for the Jets. Like Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, Frolik has that playoff experience and knows what it takes a team in order to win the Stanley Cup. That’s something that you can’t teach young players.
He’s a player who has become a perfect veteran depth piece for a team that needs it, and he has also been able to produce on the scoresheet since coming over from Chicago with 68 points in 129 games with the Jets. Not too bad for a player that was acquired for a pair of mid-round draft picks.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.