Kevin Cheveldayoff may be called lots of names by Winnipeg Jets fans, but one thing you can’t say is that he is impulsive.
While fans in Winnipeg are looking for an immediate Stanley Cup, Cheveldayoff and the owner made it clear that they are building a winner through the draft. “Our mission is to be the greatest professional hockey organization around,” Cheveldayoff said back in 2012 [Toronto Sun].
Since that time, the Jets have seen Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine jump into the league’s top-tier, while the prospect pool has repeatedly been ranked as one of the best in the NHL.
With all the prospects, fans have been waiting for Cheveldayoff to make a big trade to improve the team. Last season, when five of six defenders were out of the lineup at one point, fans were calling for a trade to shore up the back-end. When Hellebuyck struggled, many believed the team would bring someone in to help. Instead, they used AHL call-ups to fill the holes and the Jets ended up missing the playoffs.
Cheveldayoff still didn’t make a big trade during the expansion draft while he had the chance, choosing to keep his team together and even drop down in the draft to do it.
Big Trades Made So Far
So should Jets fans worry about this? Will a lack of trades be the downfall of the team? Before we answer that question, let us look at the trades Cheveldayoff has made so far.
Cheveldayoff has made 24 trades with the Jets. Most have been smaller trades, usually not involving NHL players going both ways. The biggest trade he has made since taking over was also the first that involved roster players heading to each team.
On February 11, 2015, Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and goaltender Jason Kasdorf headed to the Buffalo Sabres, while Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and a first round pick came back to the Jets. That first round pick turned into Jack Roslovic.
February 25, 2016, was the day longtime captain Andrew Ladd was shipped off to the Chicago Blackhawks. Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser joined him, while Marko Dano and a first round pick came back to the Jets. The first round pick was flipped to the Philadelphia to move up the draft and select Logan Stanley.
The recent trade with the Vegas Golden Knights is also one of the most impactful trades he has made since the trade allowed the Jets to keep all their roster players, only losing UFA Chris Thorburn and a third round pick in the 2017 draft, along with dropping down in the first round.
It’s safe to say that when the very patient Cheveldayoff makes a trade, it’s well thought out. While some of the trades he has made are not a clear ‘win’ yet, he has not lost a trade. With Kane potentially on his way out of Buffalo and Ladd struggling in New York, it’s looking good for the Jets general manager.
Trades He Has Missed
There have been countless opportunities for Cheveldayoff to make a trade, especially with the number of chips that he has in the prospect pool.
When the NHL imposes a trade freeze do they even tell Kevin Cheveldayoff?
— randy turner (@randyturner15) June 17, 2017
The biggest one may have been the Travis Hamonic saga. Prior to the 2015-16 season, Hamonic requested to be traded closer to his hometown of St. Malo, Manitoba. The options were western Canadian teams or the Minnesota Wild. The Jets seemed to make the most sense since they were looking for a top-four defender. Hamonic finally got traded to the Calgary Flames during this year’s entry draft.
During the 2016-17 season, the goaltending struggled for the Jets, but Cheveldayoff refused to pull the trigger on a trade, instead choosing to leave the net to Hellebuyck, Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec. With the entry draft and an opportunity to get a goalie through the Golden Knights, he continued to stay silent.
Has Trade-phobia Hurt the Jets
The short answer is no.
While you can point to last season as an example of needing to make a trade, you can also point to it as an example of how luck plays a huge part in every NHL season.
The Jets were one of the most injured teams in the NHL, missing five of their starting defenders at one point in the season. Morrissey was the only defender to play all 82 games. Paul Postma played the third most games after Byfuglien.
As for the goaltending, it’s likely a combination of exhaustion on Hellebuyck’s part as well as the injuries on the back-end. Hellebuyck was a college goaltender, where seasons are much shorter. While he started in the AHL for a season, the NHL is completely different. On top of that, he played in the World Junior Championships and played at the World Cup of Hockey, though he didn’t start.
Cheveldayoff has shown willingness to bring in reinforcements when the Jets are in the position to need them. Leading up to the 2015 playoffs, Cheveldayoff made the massive Kane trade and brought in Peter Budaj early, Jay Harrison, Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak.
Last year, Cheveldayoff didn’t think his team was ready and wasn’t willing to mortgage his team’s future to win now.
How Patience Has Helped the Jets
As was mentioned earlier, the Jets have the best prospect pool in the NHL. They also have one of the best players in the league in Mark Scheifele. Patrik Laine may join that ranking by next season. And while the defensive side isn’t as deep, they still have Logan Stanley and Tucker Poolman waiting to come up and join the team. In net, Eric Comrie is developing with the Manitoba Moose.
Trades to make your team better often involve sacrificing the future — Cheveldayoff hasn’t done that and the future looks amazing. The Central Division has been tough to crack, but Chicago is getting older and St. Louis might be peaking as well. We could see the Jets challenging for a playoff spot as early as next season. At that point, look for Cheveldayoff to start making those trades that would change the look of the team.
Bold trades are fun for fans but rarely for GM’s. Sometimes they work out, like when the Nashville Predators acquired P.K. Subban. Sometimes they won’t. But if you continue to hit your draft picks properly, you don’t always need to make those big trades.
Breathe Jets fans. Cheveldayoff is doing everything he can to bring a Stanley Cup to Winnipeg. We should trust the man getting paid to do that.
Judson Rempel was born and raised in the Great White North, skating on ponds and watching hockey every Saturday night in small town Manitoba. When he’s not watching hockey, he’s playing hockey with his son and daughter, and trying to convince his wife to let him watch more hockey.