WINNIPEG - With defenceman Dylan DeMelo acquired, Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff can cross one priority off his list.
The deal came six days before the February 24 trade deadline, but when he saw a deal he liked, Cheveldayoff knew it couldn't wait.
"You have to do your back-and-forth and prognosticate," Cheveldayoff said. "Getting it done early, or before the last day, if you know you're going to do it and you can stomach the price - the prices do fluctuate, your very first phone calls with different general managers, the price might be different than you actually pay."
"If you feel comfortable that is the market and you're going to do it, if you can get it done before that final deadline day, you do it."
Getting DeMelo from the Ottawa Senators required a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft going the other way in return. The move seemed to be the first in a flurry of trades on the blue line in the NHL, with Marco Scandella going from Montreal to St. Louis and Brenden Dillon sliding from the San Jose Sharks to the Washington Capitals shortly after.
"The hard part about trying to acquire a defenceman is someone has to be willing to give him up," said Cheveldayoff. "Teams certainly aren't that welcome to give up defencemen during the year. The market starts to loosen as you get closer to a deadline. You have to choose, depending on how the market is, when you get him."
Video: ON THE LINE | Kevin Cheveldayoff
As soon as Cheveldayoff was done with the DeMelo deal, he started looking forward.
In 2019, he added Kevin Hayes, Par Lindholm, Nathan Beaulieu, and Bogdan Kiselevich to the Jets on trade deadline day. Of course that doesn't mean he'll make a bunch of moves this season, but the conversations are always happening.
"We're going to be open to different things. Maybe there are hockey deals out there that don't just involve rental players," said Cheveldayoff. "We'll see how that all plays out. It's hard to predict and things change daily. There is also the potential of maybe looking at a forward as well."
Cheveldayoff cautioned that the deals made prior to the trade deadline have a ripple effect. Now without a third-round selection, the Jets have a total of four picks in the 2020 NHL Draft - a first, a second, a fifth, and a sixth round pick.
"It's always tough when you're trading picks. You know when you're sitting at the Draft in that round, you don't want to be twiddling your thumbs then," said Cheveldayoff. "Who knows what presents themselves between now and then. What we wanted to do was focus on the immediate opportunities in front of us given how hard these guys have fought, and given where things are at right now. I'm proud of this group. Hopefully this will continue to help push them and keep them in the fight."
DeMelo's contract expires at the end of the season, and just like how every trade deadline has its own identity, every off season does as well.
Cheveldayoff feels this off season will be no different. There hasn't been any conversation about a new contract for DeMelo, but the Jets GM feels the team's salary cap situation is much different now than last summer.
"Certainly unlike other years where you have lots of things locked in and we made those rental acquisitions with the full knowledge that we were going to be up against the cap moving forward, the climate is a little bit different here right now," said Cheveldayoff. "We're certainly going to be open to it."