Near the tail end of this past season when it became painfully obvious that the Winnipeg Jets were about to miss the playoffs again, some suggested that this coming off-season would be where Kevin Cheveldayoff shines, finds missing pieces to put into place and takes the Jets from perennial lottery draft pickers to a playoff glory bound squad.
“The Summer of Chevy” some coined it.
In theory this is all well and good and sounds like perfect timing for a club at a crossroads such as the Jets seem to be.
But previous history tells us that we shouldn’t expect much of anything from Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets when it comes to player transactions.
Trading Was Unlikely
Last weekend at the draft, Chevy did mention that he had tried to strike up a trade but things fell through for multiple reasons. If it had been a deal swapping actual NHL players, it would have been Chevy’s first of such kind since the Andrew Ladd deal back in February 2016. Keep in mind as well that the Ladd trade itself happened almost a full year after Chevy’s previous trade before that back in March of 2015 (Carl Klingberg for Lee Stempniak)
Trading isn’t a thing Chevy really does, which is a shame because the trades he has done have been pretty good or at the very least not deals where the Jets have been fleeced by another team’s GM.
Cheveldayoff was unable to find a fit for a trading partner over the weekend and presumably over this entire past season (the Drew Stafford trade not withstanding as one would hope that a trade of a 3rd line forward that is a pending UFA in exchange for a conditional draft pick is something any NHL general manager can do in his sleep). Potential deals have been possible – remember that it was suggested the Jets could have had Marc-Andre Fleury for a second round pick midway through the season – but for whatever reason, be it a trigger shy Chevy, a player flaunting his NMC to block a move to Winnipeg or the other NHL GM not wanting to be fleeced by a GM who rarely makes moves, a player for player trade hasn’t happened in over a calendar year.
So the idea that “The Summer Of Chevy” would see even a single trade let alone a handful of them seemed implausible right from the beginning.
Tough To Sign On The Dotted Line
In this week leading up to the big Free Agent Frenzy day of July 1, rumors have flown that the Jets are courting Brian Elliott and maybe Dmitry Kulikov. Whether or not those players are the ones to help is up for debate but the optics at least for the time being is that Chevy and the Jets are indeed trying to do something to improve the team by means other than the vaunted “draft and develop” method.
Likewise we have these rumors that free agents could be inked, but until pen meets paper all it remains to be is speculation.
At this point, it seems unlikely the Jets don’t at least add a player or two through free agency…
But what if they don’t? Or conversely, what happens if the biggest free agent deals the Jets sign are for a fringe NHL level player or two.
And lest you think that can’t happen, keep in mind last summer the biggest free agent deals that Cheveldayoff pulled in were Quinten Howden and Brian Strait.
(Funny ‘what if’ for us to ponder… What if the only signing that Chevy pulls off on July 1 is a two-way deal for UFA Chris Thorburn? Would Jets Twitter survive the ensuing meltdown? Ok, maybe ‘funny’ isn’t the right word in this case.)
It’s great to want to sign free agents, getting that done is something else entirely.
If It’s Not That Broke, Does It Really Need To Be Fixed?
Garrett Hohl in his last address before he left us
to return to his home planet to move on to bigger and better things stated something that I do believe has a lot of merit: “The Team will likely improve, even if Chevy takes a day off”
The Jets were already not too bad at forward and players like Scheifele and Lanie will only be even better.
The team should be healthier (and one player in particular won’t miss any time due to a contract issue) so we should get a lot more of Morrissey – Trouba and Byfuglien – Enstrom in our lives. Myers and Chiarot wouldn’t be a bad third pairing right?
Hutchinson and Hellebuyck could be better. Many overlook that their 5 on 5 stats were actually above league average last season and it was when they were short handed (which the Jets were a lot last season if you remember) that issues arose. Could be better? Heck, let’s say they should be better.
But ignoring that hope of a brighter tomorrow for what the Jets currently have, what happens if July 1st comes around and nothing happens? Does inaction – be it Kevin’s own or imposed by outside circumstances – finally put Cheveldayoff on the hot seat?
It’s one thing to primarily build your team through “draft and develop” but to have your fall back option be “hope the same players you missed the playoffs with last season are better this season” isn’t smart. Trades get made, players get signed, fresh blood is brought in to try and change fortunes. That’s not just how pro hockey works, that’s how all of pro sports works.
What happens if nothing actually happens this weekend? Is it the worst thing in the world for these Jets? Does it put Chevy firmly in the hot seat that will get hotter should the Jets stumble to start the season?
Before you dismiss that as not possible and are a firm believer in the “Summer of Chevy”, remember nothing is basically what happened to the Jets last summer and there is nothing – current rumors and speculation aside – to suggest anything will be different this summer.