WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t ruling out giving up a draft pick for a player who could improve his team, but the price would be high.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to make a trade for the sake of making a trade,” he said Tuesday.
“It’s got to be something that fits. It’s got to be something that helps you in the short and long term. It’s got to be something that doesn’t forgo you an opportunity to give a young player that’s going to have a bright long future a chance to play.”
He insisted money isn’t the big issue. He said owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson of True North Entertainment and Sports have made that clear.
“When we need to make the moves on the financial side, the money will be there.”
But the Jets have said consistently they’ll be patient and wait for the group of talented young players they inherited when the Atlanta Thrashers moved north to grow and develop.
Cheveldayoff shows no signs of changing course.
“This organization is in year one and it’s moving forward for many many years and for a majority of (players) we’d like them to be part of that for years to come,” he said.
He also said he saw a lot of growth in those young players during their first season in Winnipeg.
“A majority of them increased in many key areas . . . At the end of the day the one key statistic that really matters is the wins and that’s something that moving forward we’re going to continue to work tirelessly at.”
The Jets finished four points higher than the Thrashers managed last season but still missed the playoffs.
“There’s obviously tremendous room for improvement in many areas,” agreed the GM.
But even critics of the team had trouble pinning down where that improvement should take place. For the early part of the season it was lack of offence, but then the puck started to go in and it was defence that needed shoring up.
Cheveldayoff pointed to some of ways in which the teams young players stepped up to the challenge and improved, starting with goaltender Odrej Pavelec.
“I think we’re strong in net,” Cheveldayoff said of the 24-year-old Czech, who finished with a .906 save percentage in 68 games.
“He’s played the most games he’s had at the National (Hockey) League level.
Forward Evander Kane is just 20 and scored an NHL career-high 30 goals in his third season, up from 19 last year in Atlanta..
Dustin Byfuglien is a little older at 27 but he matched his points total last season of 53 and in just 66 games, compared with 81 games in 2010-11 in Atlanta.
Cheveldayoff says he could use another top-six forward and probably a little help on defence as well.
“Certainly I’d love to get bigger . . be it short-term or in the long-term.”
Cheveldayoff’s next focus is heading to the Czech Republic to watch the under-18 world championships and evaluate players.
The Jets already have a potential young star they’re letting develop in juniors, Mark Sheifele, playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts under the guidance of coach and former Winnipeg Jet Dale Hawerchuk.