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InFlight Vol. I: Cementing the Core

by Kristi Hennessy / Winnipeg Jets

When the shortened 2012-13 season came to a close on April 25th 2013, Winnipeg Jets General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, knew a busy summer was on the horizon.

His first plan of attack was to secure three vital players;, forwards Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, and defenceman Zach Bogosian. All three of them were arbitration-eligible players set to become restricted free agents on July 5th, 2013.

“After every season you’re always taking stock of where you’re at, where you want to go and what the tools and mechanisms are in your power to be able to get there,” explained Cheveldayoff. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work in respect to contract evaluation and obviously a bulk of the summer was trying to resign the core of the team.

“The different nuance last year was that the cap actually went down for the first time in many years so it was a different dynamic there. As in anything, when you’re dealing with a set cap system, managing cap dollars and actual dollars becomes a difficult balancing act at times.”

Free agency came and went with many expecting fireworks. For Chevy and his group, they knew things don’t just happen overnight. They did however, happen in a domino effect.

“It’s interesting,” said Chevy. “It is a process and the human nature is, you’d like to get things done really quickly and put it out of your mind, but the reality is the deals have to work for both sides and a lot of times that requires a lot of work and a lot of back and forth.

“Little and Wheeler were both one year away from unrestricted free-agency and when a player has that opportunity they can then entertain bids from anybody, so it’s very enticing for players that have had success to want to go that route. We were fortunate in both of those cases they had the desire to be here for a longer period of time.”

The Jets agreed to terms with Little first on July 22nd to a four year, $23.5 million contract. Wheeler followed on July 26th with a six-year, $33.6 million contract.

“Blake has blossomed with our group, given the opportunity to play the role that he has with the group. Someone that we feel will have really strong consideration for the US Olympic team and well, he should. His size, speed, hockey sense and skills combination, there’s not a lot of players that can do what he can do at that size and speed ratio. We believe that he is a late bloomer type-player that is going to continue to get better.”

Chevy completed the task of locking up the team’s core players by signing 23-year old defenseman Zach Bogosian to a seven-year, $36 million contract on July 29th, 2013. In all, 11 players have now have contracts that run through the 2015-16 season.

“Bogosian was a player that, while he wasn’t as close to unrestricted free agency as Bryan and Blake, was a young defenceman set to become unrestricted at 25 years old,” he continued. “He’s not even entering the prime of his career yet so we were very focused on getting a long-term deal right from the beginning.”

2013 NHL Draft: Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi

Cheveldayoff didn't just re-sign a handful of current players over the summer. He also wanted to bolster the depth and competition up front. With the new additions of forwards Devin Setoguchi from the Minnesota Wild and Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks, he felt he accomplished just that.

“I had the benefit of being a part of the Blackhawks organization, so when we traded for Michael Frolik, I had a little bit of familiarity with him as a person,” Chevy clarified. “Also, a scout on our staff was with the Florida Panthers when Michael was there so we know a lot about him as a player too. The value he brings from an energy and penalty-killing standpoint proves that he can play up and down the lineup on any given night.

“Like anything, with the salary cap going down, we knew that there’d be some pressure on [Chicago] in the short term and long term. They made two trades for their own reasons and the Frolik one was one that worked for us from a financial perspective and an asset perspective as well.”

The Jets had 10 draft picks heading into the 2013 NHL Draft on June 30th. Their first round pick was set at 13th overall, followed by two second round selections, two third round’s and two fourth’s.

With the 13th overall pick, the Jets drafted defenceman Josh Morrissey from the Price Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League.

“You never really know how the picks will fall,” he explained. “You rate the picks internally and certainly you have your list to work off of. In our case, with a player like Josh, he’s someone who has tremendous hockey sense and skating ability, which is what we covet with respect to defencemen. We were very thankful to be able to draft a player like that.

“There’s going to be some development and time with a player like that to reach his full potential, and we’re prepared to give him the time that he needs to develop to become a real solid player for many years to come.”

Chevy and his group were able to use a few of those draft picks to their advantage in other areas of the draft as well.

“We wanted to draft some quality players to continue to build and stockpile young players that are going to become the pipeline for the success of our team, but we also wanted to improve our team right now. So we were able to use some of the picks to acquire Michael Frolik, and plant the seeds of the Devin Setoguchi trade at the draft.

“We’ve been very open about wanting to add more players to the right side and continue to try to improve. With the addition of Setoguchi and Frolik, our right side has improved dramatically.”

Additional Pieces

In addition to picking up key players in Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik, there were still a few holes to fill and other current roster players who required new contracts.

New acquisitions:

July 6th, 2013: Jets signed 29-year old defenceman Adam Pardy. He played in 17 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres where he collected four assists and 14 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 21 games last year with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League where he recorded nine points (2G, 7A) and 22 penalty minutes. The native of Bonavista, NF has played in 200 career NHL games with Calgary, Dallas, and Buffalo.

July 6th, 2013: Jets signed Jerome Samson, 25, who played in 37 games with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League last season and recorded 27 points (7G, 18A) and 27 penalty minutes. Samson has played in 46 NHL games in his six-year career with the Hurricanes where he’s scored nine points (2G, 7A) and collected 18 penalty minutes.

July 6th, 2013: Jets signed 27-year-old Andrew Gordon. He played in 54 games with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League last season. In that time, he recorded 32 points (19G, 13A) and 49 penalty minutes. He also suited up for six games with the Vancouver Canucks. The Halifax, NS native has played in 55 career NHL games between Washington, Anaheim and Vancouver for seven career points (3G, 4A) and six penalty minutes.

July 11th, 2013: Jets inked Matt Halischuk, 25, from the Nashville Predators. The Toronto, ON native has appeared in 157 career NHL games between New Jersey and Nashville for 54 career points (25G, 29A) and 41 penalty minutes. He was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round, 117th overall, in the 2007 NHL Draft.

July 19th, 2013: The Jets signed goaltender Michael Hutchinson. The 23-year-old played in 30 games with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League during the 2012-13 season. In that time, the Barrie, ON native earned a 13-13-3 record, 2.30 goals against average and 0.914 save percentage. He was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the third round, 77th overall, in the 2008 NHL Draft.

The Jets signed new contracts with the following players over the course of the summer:

Forwards- Eric O’Dell, Anthony Peluso, Adam Lowry, J.C Lipon, Eric Tangradi, Patrice Cormier, John Albert, Austen Brassard

Defensemen- Zach Redmond, Paul Postma, Brenden Kichton, Grant Clitsome

Goaltenders -Eddie Pasquale, Jussi Olkinuora, Al Montoya

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