Kevin Cheveldayoff believes the Winnipeg Jets have only had a glimpse at what Pierre-Luc Dubois can add to the team.
“I think we’re really just scratching the surface with Pierre-Luc,” the team’s general manager said Monday on a video conference with reporters.
Cheveldayoff executed what remains the NHL’s lone blockbuster trade this season in January, dealing Finnish winger Patrik Laine and centre Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Dubois.
The 22-year-old forward’s Winnipeg debut was delayed by a two-week quarantine, then a lower-body muscle injury sidelined him for four games. But Dubois has turned out to be a solid addition for the Jets, racking up four goals and three assists in 12 games.
He’s built chemistry with linemates Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers, Cheveldayoff said, and given new versatility to the Jets’ top lines.
“Anyone in our Top 6, I think, you can probably mix and match now and like a lot about those lines,” the GM said. “It just gives us so much more from an options standpoint.”
Having options has been more important than ever this season, with a pandemic-condensed schedule forcing teams to sometimes go up against the same opponent night after night.
Cheveldayoff said he’s always tried to build a team that can “play a lot of different ways” and feels the Jets have responded well to playing in the all-Canadian North Division.
“In this division, on a nightly basis, you’re facing unbelievable stars on teams that make it very, very exciting for the fans to watch and very, very nerve-wracking for management to watch,” he said. “There’s lots of skill and they like to put it on display on a nightly basis.”
Halfway through the campaign, Winnipeg remains in the fight for the North’s top spot with a 17-8-2 record, four points behind the Maple Leafs with three games in hand heading into Monday night’s action. The Jets were set to play host to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said his team is a smart, resilient group.
“It’s not that we’ve played harder, we’ve played probably a little smarter,” he said. “We got a little more defined in our game and we stayed patient in our game.”
Cheveldayoff, too, likes the current crop of Jets players. With the April 12 trade deadline looming, though, he’s talked to his counterparts in other markets and is considering his options.
“This group is a good group and they have a lot of fun playing the game,” the GM said. “And if there’s an opportunity to make this group better, I’m certainly going to look at it.”
With a flat salary cap, talks leading up to the deadline have been a bit different this year. Lots of teams are utilizing the long-term injured reserve list to stay cap compliant, creating lots of “money in, money out” talks, Cheveldayoff said.
He added that the need for players to quarantine before hitting the ice won’t affect his decisions.
“You make a deal to make a deal and you live with the restrictions surrounding it,” Cheveldayoff said.