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Jets pull the trigger on blockbuster trade

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets


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WINNIPEG
– General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres earlier today.

The Jets have acquired defenceman Tyler Myers, forwards Drew Stafford, Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, as well as a first round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, in exchange for Zach Bogosian,
Evander Kane and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf.

“This trade will really help strengthen our franchise, both for today and for the future,” Cheveldayoff said. “I’m excited for what this trade brings to our organization.

“Any time you can put something together like this, it takes a lot of work. There was an abundance of caution and time that went into this. We might not be the most active trading team in the league, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we weren’t active behind the scenes. Having a deal come together like this, certainly in the salary cap and contract world that we live in, it’s very difficult. My hat goes off to (Buffalo GM) Tim Murray, because it takes two a make a deal and to be able to work behind the scenes as we did to be able to come to this… I’m excited.”

Myers, who will wear No. 57 with the Jets, and Stafford, 12, will meet the team in Nashville for tomorrow night’s game against the Predators.

Myers, the 12th pick in the 2008 draft, won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2009-10 after posting 11 goals and 37 assists for 48 points in all 82 games. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound blueliner has recorded four goals, 13 points and a -15 rating in 47 games this year with the last-place Sabres.

“When we talk about young players and draft picks, we always internally talk about the foundation and the ceiling of a player,” Cheveldayoff said. “Tyler’s got a great foundation. He’s big, he can skate, he can shoot… He’s going to have the opportunity to play with a deeper defence core here.

Meanwhile, Stafford – a right-handed shooting winger with over 300 career points – will add on the offensive side. His best season came in 2010-11 when he recorded 31 goals and 52 points in only
62 games. He has nine goals and 24 points this year.

The 29-year-old product of Milwaukee, WI, has an expiring contract, but that’s of little concern to the general manager.

“Drew’s looking for an opportunity to grow and play in this league and in a situation where he can flourish and we believe we can offer that opportunity,” Cheveldayoff said. “We’re not looking at
this as a short-term thing. Once he gets here, gets to know our family and coaching staff,
our city, I think he’s going to really like it.”

As a result of the trade and the additional body up front, Head Coach Paul Maurice officially announced that Dustin Byfuglien will move back to defence tomorrow night.

Armia will report to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League while Lemieux will remain in Barrie as he continues a career year with the OHL’s Colts.

Both players have been highly coveted by the Jets for quite some time.

“(Lemieux) was a projected first-rounder at last year’s draft,” Cheveldayoff said. “When he did not go in the first round, we tried like heck to move.”

It didn’t pan out. Lemieux was the first pick in the second round, ending the pursuit – for a little while, anyway.

Armia, a first round pick of the Sabres back in 2011, is “knocking on the door” of the NHL, according to the GM.

“He has good size, he moves well and he has a good knack for the offensive side of the game,” Cheveldayoff said. “We spend a lot of time with our pro and amateur scouts and they really love his upside.”

In 33 games with the AHL’s Rochester Americans, the Finnish forward has 10 goals and 35 points.

Of course, it all came a cost. Bogosian, in particular, was a leader in the dressing room and as Blake Wheeler put it after the trade was announced, “it’s never easy” to say goodbye to close friends and family members.

“We’ve got two new members of our family here today and we’re excited about that,” he said. “We’re a family and we take care of our own here.”

It’s all part of the business.

“Chevy has sent a message that he believes in our group,” team captain and the voice of the room, Andrew Ladd said. “I know he’s pretty happy with how things have played out this year and the work that we’ve put in. As a player it’s exciting to have a couple guys come here and help us win some games down the stretch.”

If it wasn’t before, it’s abundantly clear now. The Jets are gearing up for a run to the playoffs. And with 18 days until the NHL’s Mar. 2 trade deadline, Cheveldayoff might not be finished.

“The ability to add right now was very important – and it remains important,” he said. “Will we be actively looking and actively evaluating from now until the trade deadline? Yes.”

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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