WINNIPEG - Sometime between now and the evening of Jul. 1, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets would like nothing more than to welcome Paul Stastny back in Winnipeg silks.
But in order for that to become a reality, Cheveldayoff and Assistant GM Larry Simmons - the team's resident 'capologist' - will have to get creative.
"Ongoing," Cheveldayoff said of the Stastny discussions. "Given our cap situation, there's lots of moving parts.
"We had a great exit interview together and that's really my only assessment. Nothing's changed in that regard. We know the cap number now and it's time to go to work."
Video: DEV CAMP | Kevin Cheveldayoff
With the upper limit of the 2018-19 salary cap officially set at $79.5 million, the Jets will have a busy summer re-signing their 12 restricted free agents, including Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Connor Hellebuyck.
With that in mind, the Jets are most likely a cap team even without Stastny, so they'll have find a way to move salary out if they hope to retain the veteran pivot.
It's the proverbial price you pay for assembling a team with talent worthy of the dollar figure.
After being acquired from the St. Louis Blues at the Feb. 27 trade deadline, Stastny recorded four goals and 13 points in 19 regular-season games, before adding 15 points (6G, 9A) in 17 playoff games.
He single-handedly guided the Jets to their emotional Second Round Game 7 win over the Nashville Predators with a pair of goals and one helper in a one-sided 5-1 victory, and was a fixture in the dressing room, providing experience and leadership that helped the team break a number of franchise records during that historic spring run.
TSN Insider Darren Dreger reported Monday that there are, at minimum, six teams with "very serious" interest, and that the possible landing points could fluctuate depending on what happens with pending UFA John Tavares.
"I can't speak to Tavares or that situation. I'm really privy to what's going on there. But as far as our different things that we have on the go, it's hard to prognosticate anything at this point," Cheveldayoff said.
Tavares and his representatives are currently meeting with various delegations from teams around the league. Stastny, Dreger argues, is in a prime position to cash in, depending on who loses out on the high-priced JT sweepstakes.
Still, it takes two to make a deal and Stastny himself has expressed interest in staying in Winnipeg, assuming the Jets can make it work financially.
"It's pretty exciting to have a group of players like this," Cheveldayoff said. "The majority of our guys [on the current roster] have been through today, the start of Development Camp. The fact that we're standing here talking about finding ways to make it work in a cap world… When we came back to Winnipeg, we always talked about that - how this day would come. We're excited about the year we had and this is the next step in that evolution."
While teams are not permitted to sign players or even talk numbers prior to Jul. 1, the time between now and Sunday can be used to 'court' players and gauge their interest prior to offering them a contract.
"There's never a dull moment," Cheveldayoff said. "The interview period it feels like there's seven days of July 1st. There's lots of conversations. We're more focused on getting our own players signed under a certain cap number. Ever since the Stanley Cup Final, that's when the business of hockey kicks in."
The Jets did not issue a qualifying offer to fellow deadline acquisition Joe Morrow, but Cheveldayoff expects the journeyman D man to re-sign a more team-friendly contract when free agency opens on Jul. 1.
"We anticipate something will work out in our favour there," Cheveldayoff said. "He had an arbitration case that wasn't going to be to our availability, given our cap. He wants to be here, so we feel there's a good chance we'll getting something done."
Morrow had one goal and five points in 18 regular-season games with the Jets.
He added a goal - the game-winner - in Game 1 of the Jets' First Round series with the Minnesota Wild, and appeared in five additional playoff games after that.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com