Speculating the Jets’ trade deadline strategy

If it weren’t for the fact that Kevin Cheveldayoff was hired in the summer when the team moved North from Atlanta, how many people would know the name of the Winnipeg Jets’ rookie general manager? Not many, I presume, and he kept his hand close to his face in the offseason, making very minor moves to spend a year assessing the core of the team he has.

Right now, Winnipeg have an outside shot—five points out—at the playoffs as we’re a month away from the trade deadline. If the Jets were still based in Atlanta, having been out of the postseason for four seasons, the pressure might be on the front office to load up and make a run, particularly with the amount of cap space the team has.

But there is a luxury with being a new franchise with a long waiting list for season tickets: you can afford to be patient. And, if you can read anything out of the quotes that appeared in Ed Tait’s column today this weekend from Mr. Cheveldayoff, you’d be hard-pressed to think that the Jets are going to be hard buyers come the deadline.

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“We’ve been very open and candid about our situation: we’re always going to be buyers for things that are going to help us in the future… for me, it’s not about making a deal for the sake of it. I don’t approach this deadline or any other deadline sitting here thinking, ‘I MUST do something’. My must is I must spend each and every day doing everything I can to help this team both short- and long-term.”

Cheveldayoff isn’t the type to string together a bunch of assets to lure Shea Weber to Winnipeg for a few months. His quotes from the story sound like something right out of Moneyball, and Billy Beane’s second rule on making trades: “The day you say you have to do something, you’re scrwed. Because you are going to make a bad deal.”

That said, this team, as constructed, even with the strong youth core, isn’t going to win a Stanley Cup without a few tweaks, and maybe one more key component. Something has to be done, whether it’s February 27th, July 1st or September 1st of 2013, a deal must be made at some point to ensure that this team gets good enough to go from being a playoff bubble team to a legitimate contender.

The trade deadline and the first day of free agency are the days where teams become the most liable to overpay for assets, but good bargains can be had at the right price. Last season, Vancouver’s Mike Gillis brought Chris Higgins to Vancouver for a package of pucks, and Higgins ended up re-signing with the team and plays on their second line. It isn’t required that a deal made at the trade deadline for a team looking to make a playoff push also handicap the team’s future. This team could use defensive depth at both forward and defense, and possibly another scorer to give the team a more balanced attack.

It will be interesting to see what Mr. Chelevdayoff looks to bring in, if he does intend to make a deal this month. Andrei Kostitsyn, PA Parenteau and David Jones are young forwards whose contracts are up this who may be available for pickup for cheap this spring and help the team on a run without sacrificing many assets, and are young enough to maybe want to come back and return in September.

That second part should be the key. The team will want to stay competitive next season, and not give up too much to make a big splash. Fans hoping for a major shakeup to the core will be dissapointed, because if Jets management have watched the team like I have this season, they’re likely pretty impressed with what they’ve been able to do despite only a few minor additions from the summer.