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Cheveldayoff will 'explore all options' to improve Jets

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:33 PM / NHL Insider

By Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

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Cheveldayoff will 'explore all options' to improve Jets
The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their first season in Manitoba this past weekend, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's chores are only beginning.

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their first season in Manitoba this past weekend, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's chores are only beginning.

The Winnipeg franchise has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five consecutive seasons and owns only one visit to the postseason over its 12 seasons. The Jets finished 11th in the Eastern Conference this season in posting 84 points, their third-best finish in the organization's history.

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But the League's fourth-worst road mark, a 26th-place finish in goals-against, and a bottom-third penalty kill doomed the Jets this season. An end to the season in which the Jets won only three of their final 10 games leaves Cheveldayoff with plenty of work this summer. Cheveldayoff did not provide specifics during his season-ending press conference Tuesday, but he repeatedly stressed the need for patience, including from himself.

"We're not going to mortgage the future to trade away players for quick fixes," Cheveldayoff said. "From a fan's perspective, I hope that they would understand that that is a true commitment.

"My commitment to not mortgaging the future, that will be unwavering. I have to make sure that I don't let my heart get ahead of my head."

Cheveldayoff has more than two months until the 2012 NHL Draft, and he will depart for the Czech Republic on Wednesday to watch the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. The Jets could pick as high as fifth in NHL Draft. Cheveldayoff admitted that he would be open to the idea of trading his club's first-round pick for the right return, but his asking price would be "extremely high."

Cheveldayoff also stressed that he was committed to keeping his options open, and that the Jets would explore all available methods to remake their roster, be it via the Draft, trade, or free-agency.

"You have to keep yourself flexible and open to any opportunities that come up," Cheveldayoff said.

But the NHL Draft accounts for only a portion of Winnipeg’s offseason work. The Jets have 11 players on their roster who are not under contract for the 2012-13 season, and Cheveldayoff faces negotiations for workhorse goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, leading goal-scorer Evander Kane, and useful checking center Jim Slater, among others. Cheveldayoff indicated that he has spoken with his players' agents to begin the negotiation process, but he has not exchanged proposals or hard numbers.

Cheveldayoff's wish list figures to be substantial and he noted that he would like to improve his club's size and top-to-bottom organizational depth. Whether Winnipeg's payroll will increase or decrease remains to be seen, according to Cheveldayoff.

"It wasn't for lack of trying to be active, but again, I'm not a guy who is going to make a trade for the sake of making a trade," Cheveldayoff said. "It has got to be something that fits. It has to be something that helps in the short- and long-term."

One such move that did pan out for the Jets was bringing in versatile forward Kyle Wellwood, who tied a career high with 18 goals. Cheveldayoff admitted that the Wellwood signing caused some head-scratching from some corners of the hockey world after Wellwood had lingered on the open market until just before training camp. But Jets coach Claude Noel could play Wellwood on all four lines, and the crafty forward could fill in as a center or on the wing while offering reliable two-way play.

Cheveldayoff limited most of his moves to waiver-wire claims and small trades during his first season with the Jets. But he insisted that he will have the financial wherewithal to make more substantial moves going forward.

"One thing that True North – both [chairman] Mark [Chipman] and [business partner] David [Thomson] – have been very adamant [about] is that when we need to make the moves on the financial side, the money will be there," Cheveldayoff said. "True North has never, ever wavered from their commitment to me that when we need the money to keep or to get the players that are available to us that the money will be there."

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