Saturday, 30 June 2018

Summer Of Chevy?

He has taken his lumps for not having the cap room to re-sign Paul Stastny nor moving pieces out at the NHL Entry Draft to open up that cap room, but Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was up early today working the phones, moving pieces, and retooling his team for another deep run in the 2018-19 season. The GM himself identified that signing Stastny was a priority for him, and he knew he needed to find some additional money for a few key restricted free agents while not sacrificing the depth he had amassed. On June 30, 2018, Kevin Cheveldayoff kicked off a summer of hard work by making a couple of key moves.

While everyone awaits the announcement by John Tavares as to where he'll play hockey next season, the Jets went out and made the necessary moves to re-sign arguably the second-best free agent centerman on most pundits' lists. Cheveldayoff did that by somehow convincing Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens to take backup netminder Steve Mason and his $4.1 million salary off the Jets' books.

Yes, it also cost them Joel Armia, a 2019 seventh-round pick, and a 2020 fourth-round pick, but Armia was projected to be a third-line player for the Jets this season, and those two picks aren't of the overly-valuable rounds that Chevy likes to target. In return, the Jets receive an underrated defenceman Simon Bourque who had just an awful season in Laval last season, but, to his credit, everyone in Laval had a pretty dismal season last year. Bourque will undoubtedly suit up for the Moose this season, so the Jets add a decent defender to their ranks.

Mason, for his part, simply didn't live up to the dollars that the Jets were willing to invest in him. He was often injured this past season, and the Jets used a carousel of backup netminders behind Connor Hellebuyck to relieve the starter of a heavier workload. The Jets will concentrate on maximizing a few dollars on the open market to fill the vacancy left by Mason in the trade, and I'd love to see the Jets take a flyer on one of Petr Mrazek, Laurent Brossoit, or Maxime Lagacé. All three goalies are 26-or-under, and the potential for them to start 20-25 games will be a factor as all three put up Mason-like numbers. Where they work for the Jets is salary, although Mrazek may want more than a six-figure, one-to-two-year deal.

Losing Armia might be a bit of a blow to the Jets' third-line as he had posted career bests of twelve goals and 29 points, but it opens the door for one of Nic Petan and Marko Dano to step up and grab that spot. My money would be on Nic Petan to grab the spot, but anything can happen over this summer and into training camp.

If the rumours of slotting defenceman Tyler Myers on the left side are true, the Jets appear to be pushing Joe Morrow down the lineup. Morrow, who signed a one-year, $1 million earlier this week, slotted in nicely with Dustin Byfuglien last season, and there was hope that those two could be paired again for next season. Yes, Morrow doesn't have the defensive skills of a Tobias Enstrom, but Morrow did bring some additional offence from the left side where it was Josh Morrissey carrying the play from the left side of the rink. Ben Chiarot won't do that, so Morrow could help the Jets by carrying more offence like he did in his short time with the Jets after the trade.

In an afternoon deal that appears to be an AHL deal on the surface, the Jets dealt qualified restricted free agent Chase De Leo to the Anaheim Ducks for Nic Kerdiles. De Leo had 35 points with the Moose last season while Kerdiles had 34 points with the San Diego Gulls. Kerdiles plays with a little more tenacity than what De Leo does, but De Leo has more skill. This move may be a response to a rumour that Moose captain Patrice Cormier is considering an offer to jump to the KHL. Cormier is one of those sandpaper players that will net you some offence when given the chance, but he's often playing a more physical role. If this is indeed one of the underlying pieces to this deal, I see nothing wrong with this move to acquire Kerdiles.

Overall, the moves made in the last week have Winnipeg looking a lot like they did last season when they finished the season strong and made a good push through the postseason. While Chevy won't be involved in any of the John Tavares drama, he did clear some much needed cap room to bring a player back who he stated he coveted since the end of the season. Of course, Stastny has to feel the same way, but there's a good sense he'll be back with the freed-up money that Cheveldayoff found today.

So far, it's a quality offseason in the Manitoba capital, but there's still work to be done!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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