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Cheveldayoff, Jets Making Key Moves as NHL Free Agency Looms

By Carter Brooks

Photos by James Carey Lauder, Jeff Parsons and Debora Robinson 

It has been the talk of the town since the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline this past spring: Just how will General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff be able to re-sign veteran forward Paul Stastny this offseason? On Saturday morning it became much clearer.

Cheveldayoff, Jets Making Key Moves as NHL Free Agency Looms

News broke early on Saturday that the Winnipeg Jets and the Montreal Canadiens had teamed up to complete a trade. 

Winnipeg acquired 21-year-old defenceman Simon Bourque in exchange for forward Joel Armia, goaltender Steve Mason, a seventh round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft and a fourth round selection in 2020. 

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It was a hefty price to pay for a pure salary dump, but a move that had to be done, nonetheless. 

Saturday’s deal saw the full $4.1 million owed to goaltender Steve Mason for the coming season wiped from the books, however the Jets were also forced to hand over two selections and a promising young forward in Armia (who was in store for a raise from his $925K following a season laced with career highs).

In all, Winnipeg cleared approximately $5.3-$6 million in cap space for Sunday’s opening of the free agent signing period. Following the acquisition of Mason, Montreal bought out the remaining year on his deal, placing the 30-year-old on unconditional waivers.

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In return for Armia and Mason, Winnipeg acquired a young defenceman who has just completed his first season of professional hockey with the American League’s Laval Rocket, playing alongside Winnipeg’s Brett Lernout. At 6-foot-1 and 195-pounds, the former sixth round NHL draft pick has the body of an NHL defenceman.

While playing for Rimouski and Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior League, Bourque put together 40 career goals, to go alongside 149 points in 248 CHL games. 

Chevy’s day was not done there, as the now veteran NHL GM put together a minor league deal that saw Manitoba Moose forward Chase De Leo shipped to Anaheim in exchange for San Diego Gulls forward Nic Kerdiles. 

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound 24-year-old collected 15 goals and 34 points in 49 AHL games for San Diego in the 2017-18 season. Kerdiles saw action in two Ducks games this past season after earning a brief call up as injuries took over Anaheim’s squad. He did not collect a point in very limited ice time for the Ducks. 

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In what has been an exciting season for hockey in Winnipeg, the offseason just may provide the most excitement yet. What began at the trade deadline and ramped up with the Winnipeg Whiteout and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has now shifted to a focus on the long-term needs of the Jets. 

With no hockey to be played until September, the business side of things is shifted to the forefront as drafts, offer sheets, trades and signings all take up the news feeds of the 31 professional hockey teams in the NHL.

Seemingly beginning with Chevy’s trade deadline deal involving Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets fans begun to sense a different feel, as their home team begins to enter the ‘win now’ stage. It wasn’t only the regular season success of that exact trade, but also the results that came in the playoffs that had Jets fans from far and wide excitedly and rather immediately fell head over heels for the centre ice setup man, and his new GM.

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Stastny’s knack for being in the right place at the right time only grew over his short stay in Winnipeg. Following an incredibly successful playoff run that saw Winnipeg narrowly run out of steam in the Conference Final, the focus of the Jets’ front office is to build upon the 2017-18 season. 

With a handful of expiring contracts on his hands, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will certainly have a busy summer ahead of himself. Defencemen Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Tucker Poolman, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and forwards Brandon Tanev, Marko Dano and Adam Lowry are all in need of new deals – the fun is only just beginning.

Chevy and Co. kicked things off Monday by extending qualifying offers to 12 of 16 eligible recipients. The four players not handed qualifiers were Jan Kostalek, Jimmy Lodge, Jamie Phillips and Joe Morrow. Morrow and the Jets continued negotiations throughout the following two days, before it was announced that the 25-year-old defenceman had agreed upon a one-year, $1 million deal.

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Morrow had a goal and five points through 18 games with Winnipeg after being acquired at the deadline from Montreal, where he put up five goals and 11 points in 38 regular season games for the Canadiens. 

As the free agent signing period opens Sunday at 12 noon, Winnipeg will certainly be busy. All indications point to a long-term Stastny deal, a short-term backup goaltender signing and a deal to bring in a depth AHL forward or two. 

 

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com.

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