Jets’ Play Put the GM in a Tough Spot Ahead of Trade Deadline

Winnipeg Jets fans expected, correct that, wanted general manager (GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff to take a big swing at the trade deadline, and that didn’t happen. For the past month, fans and media have been waiting for what seemed to be the obvious play to unfold, and like almost every other year, the trade deadline passed without the Jets making so much as a ripple, let alone a splash. Perhaps this season the fault doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the GM, but the players have some responsibility in the underwhelming moves to bolster the lineup. Here’s my take.

Jets Didn’t Make Enough Moves Ahead of the Deadline

The deadline date of March 3 was quiet. The reason being most GMs had already made their moves beforehand. When it arrived, the trade market was like a dollar store at the end of a closing-out sale.

Related: Jets Miss Mark After Another Quiet Trade Deadline

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I get that the trade market is expensive, and you have to fork over some value to improve your club, but that’s the cost of doing business. And when you have the small window of contention as the Jets have, Cheveldayoff missed the mark by not making a move early.

“There’s always a place to pick up guys for a seller if you give the right price. And sometimes in this market, whether it’s to get through a no-trade or whatever it is, you have to overpay. That’s the reality of the business Winnipeg is in. So you have to live in that reality. I think now it’s Winnipeg’s turn to fire that shot”

– Sam Cosentino, from The Kenny & Renny Show, 02/03/2023

Names like Timo Meier, Jakob Chychrun, Nick Bjugstad, and Ryan O’Reilly would have been perfect fits for this roster. Arguably, they were perfect examples of who the Jets needed. However, other GMs paid the price that Cheveldayoff was unwilling to match.

The Jets’ Play May Have Altered the GM’s Course of Action

Remember back in January, the Jets were near the top of the Western Conference, fighting for first in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars and holding one of the highest winning percentages in the league. They were rolling.

Rick Bowness Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets’ recent poor play may have altered the teams’ trade plans. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Now they are third in the Central, one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who have three games in hand over the Jets. They have gone from being a front-runner to middle-of-the-pack in only six weeks. They are reeling.

In their last 18 games, they have a record of 7-11-1 and can’t consistently score. They are getting outworked and outplayed and look like a team with little idea of how to rectify the problem. They are now only six points ahead of the Nashville Predators to hold onto the last playoff position in the Western Conference.

“I think Kevin Cheveldayoff, a couple of months ago, had every intention of being all in. Had every intention of moving their future and bolstering this core and going for it. Not just this year and next year. Here’s the problem, this core has shown him over the last six weeks… a team that falls and doesn’t know how to get up. He has every reason to be cautious and… has been put in a situation where I think he was all-in, and could not go all-in because his players made that choice almost impossible for him.”

– Sean Reynolds, from The Kenny & Renny Show, 02/03/2023

What is a GM supposed to do? This crash in performance could not have come at a worse time for a person trying to bolster a roster. Is he adding rentals or expensive acquisitions that require giving up prospects and draft picks, or is his priority now to add security in players with term on their contracts and prevent a complete rebuild in a couple of years?

The Trade Deadline May Not Work for the Jets

Cheveldayoff may be the victim of his own doing. He has relied on the philosophy of building this team almost entirely with players who have been either drafted or traded with term on their contracts. He has yet, in 12 years, to take a leap and make a move that would significantly bolster the club at the trade deadline and send a message to his players that he’s doing everything possible to give them the best chance at winning. With no-trade clauses in place and Winnipeg being less than a desirable market for the NHL elite, maybe the moves everyone is looking for aren’t there.

Kevin Cheveldayoff Winnipeg Jets
Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

His players, in turn, have shown him they cannot handle success. He brought in a new coach with a system that fits their skill set and retooled the team in terms of accountability, positivity and enthusiasm which seemed to be working. The first half of the season had the rest of the NHL take notice. However, the past six weeks have been abysmal. They look lost, much like they did almost all of last season. If you were the GM, would you jeopardize the future with this roster knowing that your three top players could be gone after next season?

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It’s a tough call, the Jets looked like Stanley Cup contenders in early January, and now they may be lucky to sneak into the playoffs. Sacrificing some valuable prospects for a rental that could maybe win you one round could potentially be disastrous for the franchise moving forward. I get why he didn’t make a splash, but I also think he had every opportunity in the past two months to make a move to show the core of this team that he had their back. A move like that may have been enough of a spark to avoid this current slide.

Now we will see what this lineup, the one he says he trusts, can do on its own with only the addition of Nino Niederreiter from the Predators and Vladislav Namestnikov from the San Jose Sharks.