WINNIPEG - Every season as a general manager in the National Hockey League provides a different set of challenges.
For Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff the 2019 off-season arguably has been the most challenging since he started over eight years ago. The departure of key players via trade and free agency, Dustin Byfuglien's requesting a personal leave of absence and of course, the on-going negotiations with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor.
Is he disappointed that neither player is here as training camp begins?
"It's part of the business and when you are dealing with business, it's hard to put time frames on things. You certainly would like everything done and ready to go. It's obviously what everyone's intentions are," said Cheveldayoff.
"Again if we were the only team in this situation you might be sitting there thinking what's going on. There is others and it doesn't make it right; it doesn't make to wrong. It's a time where you want everybody in and working towards things and getting opportunities. For the coaches to be able to look at different things but we'll treat it likes it's an injury right now in a lot of respects and we'll worry about the players that are here and that'll be Paul's and our focus at this point."
Video: TRAINING CAMP | Kevin Cheveldayoff
There is no argument the Jets are a better team with one or certainly both RFA's on the ice but Cheveldayoff is choosing to focus on who is here and the battles for roster spots that are about to happen. For players like Tucker Poolman, Sami Niku, Jack Roslovic and Mason Appleton to take a step forward.
"Camp is about everybody. Again there is lots of opportunities here for young players to take the next steps. For some veteran players to seize some opportunities and some players that have been in our organization for a while to maybe step up in a role that they have probably relished and wanted that opportunity," said Cheveldayoff.
"I think for everybody there's a renewed sense of purpose. This is something training camp can be a grind. Obviously the beep test is going on outside is probably never the best part for all these guys but it's a necessary part of taking those steps. We'll get into games relatively quickly here and the opportunity will be there for a lot of players to be used in different roles. It's up to them to make an impression on the coach."
Over the summer, Paul Maurice took some time to head over to Finland to have a discussion with Laine who has scored 110 goals over his first three seasons in the NHL. While you may wonder about the basis of the conversations between the head coach and the Finnish sniper, Cheveldayoff explained this is nothing new.
"Paul whether it's out there or not meets with a lot of players over the course of time throughout the year. There's growth that's needed in this group when you have young players in a young team likes ours," said Cheveldayoff.
"You go through ups and downs of seasons and ups and downs I guess in situations. It's good to have communications. Hats one of Paul's strengths is he's a good communicator and I think that any time players and coaches or players and players, everybody is talking it's always a great thing."
Slowly but surely, big name restricted free agents around the league have put pen to paper like the Flyers Ivan Provorov and Columbus' Zach Werenski. However, big names like Mitch Marner and Mikko Rantanen remain in negotiations with their respective clubs. Might it be case that some are waiting for those dominoes to fall before the real negotiations begin.
"It's hard to speculate what's going through every other players mind, it's hard to speculate what's going through our players' minds. Because every teams situation is different. Every situation is different, every opportunity is different," explained Cheveldayoff.
"We sat here last year and talked about Josh Morrissey on a day like today and then I left here and we made some progress right after that. These are the things that can change on one phone call can advance tremendously. A phone call can be parked a period of time, everyone is different. So categorize or characterize one or the other certainly when they are not your own it's hard."