Jets Making Cheveldayoff’s Decisions Difficult

The Winnipeg Jets are in a wild card spot once again after reeling off three-straight wins along with the Arizona Coyotes losing on back-to-back days against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. The Jets are giving themselves a fighting chance to make it with their recent play and they could be getting some more reinforcements over the next week.

Paul Maurice Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

They are certainly not making life easy for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. The Jets are currently a “bubble” wild card team, which makes for some difficult decisions and he will have to decide rather quickly with the trade deadline approaching on Monday, Feb. 24.

Related: Jets Need 1st Round Draft Pick More Than They Need a Rental

On Tuesday, Cheveldayoff pulled the trigger on one deal, acquiring defenceman Dylan DeMelo from then Ottawa Senators for the Jets’ 2020 third-round draft pick.

To Go “All-in” or Not

The last two seasons when Cheveldayoff made big splashes at the trade deadline, the situation was a lot more clear. The Jets were a lock to make the postseason – this season is a different story. The team has been through a lot of ups and downs and they are currently fighting for every last point they can earn to punch their ticket to the playoffs, making for some tough decisions.

Kevin Cheveldayoff
Will Kevin Cheveldayoff continue to make moves ahead of the trade deadline? (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Will defenceman DeMelo be enough to get the Jets over the hurdle? Or do they need to add more pieces like another top-four defender or another second-line centre for the third-straight season? Is it even worth it this season? Should they be sellers rather than buyers?

I really think Cheveldayoff is in a tough place regarding this seasons’ deadline. I feel like he owes it to the veteran players on this team to try and give them every chance at making the playoffs and being successful, but at the same time not mortgaging the future to do so – easier said than done.

Related: 20 Biggest NHL Trades in the Past Year

I do not see the Jets as a threat in the postseason if they make it, so any deals that involve draft picks going out the door for players with expiring contracts make me cringe. If the team fails to re-sign DeMelo and they either miss the playoffs or get eliminated in the first round, the deal will be a huge waste, in my opinion.

The Jets’ 2015 NHL Draft is proof they can find talent in any round.

Sure, the odds of a player drafted after the first round and making the NHL go way down, but Cheveldayoff and the team’s scouts have proven they are effective at finding talent in any given round of the draft.

Trading for Talent with Term

If Cheveldayoff and the Jets continue to make moves that include draft picks as we approach the trade deadline, it would be nice to see them acquire a player with some term left on their contract, no matter how difficult it might be – that is the only situation where I see draft picks being traded make any sense.

Related: THW’s Top-12 NHL Trade Rumors Tracker – Updated

Again, that is easier said than done, but if Cheveldayoff cannot find a suitable trade partner for a talented player with term left on their contract, then maybe it was not meant to be. I feel if the Jets can fight for a postseason spot (and they are) with the team they currently have, then why continue to trade away the future when we are clearly not Stanley Cup contenders?

The Jets have shown interest in Josh Manson who still has two years left on his current contract after this season.

Some other notable players with term left on their contract who the Jets may be interested in include the likes of Matt Dumba, Shayne Gostisbehere, Rasmus Ristolainen, Vincent Trocheck, and Alex Kerfoot.

Cap Space and Dustin Byfuglien

The Jets have a ton of cap space to make some moves that take on a lot of salary – they currently sit with over $18 million in cap space and they are projected to have over $20 million at the trade deadline.

Related: Jets & Cheveldayoff Should Wait to Replace Byfuglien

The Jets and Cheveldayoff have also held off terminating Dustin Byugflien’s contract to exhaust all potential trade opportunities involving the 34-year-old. I’m not sure what value he currently holds as any team could just wait until his contract is terminated and sign him for a lesser value afterward. Of course, this would make him ineligible to play in the playoffs this season, so if a team feels he could be able to return in time for playoff action, a trade with the Jets would have to happen.

The bottom line with all this is Cheveldayoff has a lot on his plate (like he has all season) and the likelihood of him making any big moves like trading Byfuglien or acquiring top-tier talent with term left are slim to none. I can see the Jets making one more minor trade by acquiring a lower-tier forward or defenceman at a cheaper cost – much like the trade we saw them make to get DeMelo.

Dylan Demelo Ottawa Senators
Recently acquired Dylan DeMelo played his first game with the Jets against his former team the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They are also unlikely to move Mathieu Perreault or Dmitry Kulikov if they feel they are a playoff team – which they currently are. I feel their best bet is to go into the final stretch of the season with the group they currently have and hope for the best.

Related: Jets Can’t Deal Connor or Ehlers to Fill Defensive Holes

Let’s remember, at some point Perreault and Adam Lowry will be back from injury to help the team out that much more. Trading away more draft picks for rentals does not help this team’s future, which is still bright by the way – let’s keep it that way.

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