Kevin Cheveldayoff has had a busy summer, but the excitement is only beginning.
After navigating the Winnipeg Jets franchise through an off-season that included an unpredictable expansion draft, eight NHL Draft selections, and six signings during free agency, he's being rewarded with a multi-year contract extension.
"First of all, couldn't be more excited on behalf of my family and myself, this is an exciting moment for us. We put a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, a lot of time into doing the things we've done with respect to drafting and developing and retaining," Cheveldayoff said. "There have been a lot of sacrifices along the way where maybe you put your family second or do different things to make sure the job gets done.
"This is very rewarding, it's very humbling, and it's a real honour to be part of the True North family for the future."
Video: EXCLUSIVE | Kevin Cheveldayoff
Cheveldayoff has been the man in charge since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. He signed a two-year extension on top of his original five-year contract in September of 2013, an extension that would have expired at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Over the course of seven seasons, Cheveldayoff has filled the prospect pool, and has seen five of the team's first round picks in the NHL Draft (Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Patrik Laine) become full-time NHL players, with 2015 first round picks Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic also having gained experience with the big club in 2016-17.
Video: Jets draft F Kristian Vesalainen No. 24
But the decisions haven't always been easy. While making the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs was an exciting time for the franchise, Cheveldayoff and his management team knew tough decisions had to be made.
"Knowing our window was probably not going to stay open with the group of players that we had, and we had to make some changes and make some tough decisions. Whether it was on contract extensions, or just different decisions you make along the way. Those are the things internally you agonize over," said Cheveldayoff. "But for us obviously, the opportunity now to have the exciting group of players we have in front of us here, the opportunity to be aggressive in free agency over the summer, to acquire some players that fill some of the holes we need, to know that some of our young players are just starting to scratch the surface, it is an exciting time for not only me but for the staff as well."
Keeping the exciting players Cheveldayoff referenced can be a challenge with the NHL's salary cap. But the Jets' general manager has handled the challenge, locking up Scheifele to an eight-year contract extension last summer, while also getting Jacob Trouba, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, and Joel Armia's names on the dotted line as well.
With those contracts complete, Cheveldayoff was able to focus on acquiring goaltender Steve Mason and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov on July 1 to help bolster an already exciting squad.
"Honestly those conversations were fun. They were exciting. They were exhilarating," said Cheveldayoff. "It's interesting, in both of the conversations, and other conversations we had, one of the things that always comes up is how exciting it is to play in our building. As an opposing (player) how intimidating it can be when the fans are on their game, and they're at the top fever pitch they can be, it's a tough building to play in.
"It's the smallest building in the league, but that means you're right on top of everyone as well. Those were some of the things they intimated would be great to be on the other side of it."
Video: MEDIA AVAILABILITY | Kevin Cheveldayoff
What makes the extension even sweeter for Cheveldayoff is the fact head coach Paul Maurice, whose contract was also set to expire at the end of the coming season, isn't going anywhere. The team's head coach since the 2013-14 season signed a multi-year extension of his own.
"Paul Maurice is a real leader. You can see that within the room, you can see that with the players and talking with the players at the end of the year during their exit meetings in very candid conversations," said Cheveldayoff. "Overwhelmingly the players were in great support of Paul, which was great to hear because from my perspective, he's done some things that we've asked him to do that maybe a lot of veteran coaches would not look at. He's put himself behind the needs of the team as opposed to in front of the needs of the team.
"Ultimately I'm looking for some great success with him together. I'm excited to be able to talk about this and have him announced alongside me. I'm looking forward to many more years of pushing this team forward."