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Busy times as free agency looms

by Kristi Hennessy / Winnipeg Jets

Stable building block in place

Kristi Hennessy -

The looming question mark about who will mind the crease for the Winnipeg Jets next season has finally been answered. The Winnipeg Jets announced Monday they have agreed to terms with Ondrej Pavelec on a new five-year contract.   READ MORE ›

With free agency looming just around the corner, one could only imagine what Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s desk would look like right about now. With a handful of unrestricted and restricted free agents on his roster, he must begin to speed up the process if he hopes to have all of his loose ends tied before July 1st.

One huge one was settled Monday afternoon as the Winnipeg Jets came to terms with Ondrej Pavelec on a new 5-year contract. Cheveldayoff spoke to media on a conference call from South Carolina where he was taking part in American Hockey League Meetings, and ensured that Pavelec was just the beginning.

“By signing Pavelec for five-years, we’re locking in one of the building blocks and as we progress moving forward, we’re hopeful to do the same in other situations and circumstances.

“I’m not a guy who puts timelines on myself,” Chevy reiterated. “I think the NHL has a lot of different timelines that come into play and they do a good enough job of putting that in place for us. Negotiations are ongoing and they’ll continue.”

Chevy once mentioned that he doesn’t believe in relying on free agency to build a team however, if the right cards are on the table, he won’t shy away from playing them.

“The proper way to approach it is you can’t expect to build this team through free agency and free agency alone,” he said Monday. “I think this past week with the draft and certainly last years draft, we’re taking steps toward acquiring assets and acquiring young building blocks.

“Free agency is a method that you can build with-- but it’s hard to build around. Certainly if the opportunities are there to fill in some areas that we need to address, we’re certainly going to look long and hard and try to make it happen.”

Chevy and his pro scout staff are working around the clock with current players and their agents in the negotiating process but they are also looking beyond the current group to see what doors may open up for new conversations.

“Daily I’m talking to my group of pro-staff obviously waiting and seeing how many guys come off the board before free agency does come into play. My pro-staff were in Pittsburgh this past weekend and I met with them. There’s lots of discussion internally about different opportunities that might be out there depending on who gets signed prior to July 1st.”

Saying that, Chevy was very clear that just because a handful of players could become available on July 1st, doesn’t mean they will talk to just anyone, only those who they feel would fit in with their long term plan.

“We’re not a team who are ‘tire-kickers’,” Chevy explained. “If we are interested in a player at whatever level it is, we’ll make a serious effort to make that happen or try to make it happen.

“Players that do have opportunities in free agency have earned those opportunities. Internally, we’re not a group who just says, “Hey, let’s see if this works.”

So, as we watch the sand drain from the hourglass, how confident did the GM seem about setting the remaining loose ends?

“I’m always optimistic,” said Chevy at last weekends NHL Draft. “Last year at this point in time I never even had the opportunity to meet with any of the RFA’s representatives so certainly we’ve been able to get a jump on that and things turned out pretty well last year.”

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