It took him almost four years on the job to pull the trigger on a major deal, but Jets' general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff finally gave the people of Winnipeg what they wanted – a blockbuster seven-player trade that will have repercussions for years to come.
Cheveldayoff managed a neat trick – trading an injured asset, Evander Kane, who'd had a falling out with some of his teammates earlier in February – to a team that didn't need Kane's production right away, the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres were prepared to give up meangingful assets to land Kane, presumably in the hopes that he will be the triggerman to play alongside either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, whichever one of the two generational prospects they happen to draft this June.
In exchange, the Jets landed the second most-intriguing trade-deadline asset being shopped around – defenceman Tyler Myers, a 6-foot-8 behemoth who has underperformed in recent years on a going-nowhere Sabres team. If Myers can regain some of the flash and dash of his rookie season, when he scored 48 points and won the Calder Trophy, the Jets are set on defence for years to come.
"When we talk about young players and draft picks internally, we talk about a player's foundation and his ceiling," said Cheveldayoff. "Tyler's got a tremendous foundation. He's big. He can shoot. He's going to have an opportunity to play with a deeper defence corps. He can log a lot of minutes – last night, he was 25-plus minutes for Buffalo.
"Sometimes, in this game, fresh starts are really welcome for players that have lots of expectations heaped on them, and lots of hype as young players – because it is a hard game to play as a young player and even harder as a young defenceman.
"We really believe there's a huge upside on him – when he gets a chance to work with a guy like Charlie Huddy and play for a coach like Paul (Maurice). I think that's really going to help him."
In addition to Myers and Drew Stafford, the Jets also acquired prospects Joel Armia, a 2011 first-rounder, and Brendan Lemieux, son of Claude, the 31st player chosen in the 2014 NHL entry draft. Buffalo also received defenceman Zac Bogosian, who is from upstate New York, in the deal along with a goaltending prospect.
Stafford is on an expiring contract, but Cheveldayoff was hopeful that a chance to join the Jets might convince him to stay after this season.
"He's looking for an opportunity to play in this league in a situation where he can flourish and we think we can offer him that opportunity," said Cheveldayoff. "So we're not looking at this as a short-term thing. Once he gets here, once he gets to know our group, our family, our coaching staff, our city, I think he's going to really like it."
Lemieux was expected to go in the first round last year and when he didn't, Cheveldayoff said he made an attempt to trade up to get his rights, but Buffalo wasn't interested and took him with the first pick in the second round.
Lemieux plays his junior hockey in Barrie for former Jets' star Dale Hawerchuk, which gives them a good book on him.
"We have a great relationship with the coach there and he speaks very highly of him, as a player and a person. I remember the (draft) combine interview we had with him. He's a very respectful young man, who plays the game with a real sense of purpose, who's looking to make his own name in the game."
Cheveldayoff said Wednesday's trade, his first major deal, was in keeping with the organization's long-standing philosophy of trying to keep an eye on both today and tomorrow.
"This trade came about by those same principles – this was not a knee-jerk reaction," said Cheveldayoff. "Anytime, you can put together something together like this, it takes a lot of work. There's an abundance of caution and time that went through a lot of the decisions.
"We may not have been 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, in the salary-cap world, in the contract world we live in, is very difficult. My hat goes off to (Sabres GM) Tim Murray, because it takes two to make a deal. To be able to come to this, I'm excited for what this trade brings to our organization and if we were in Tim's press conference, he'd probably say the same thing."
Cheveldayoff stressed that he had to give up quality assets in return to make the deal and called Kane "a tremendous hockey player, so there was no shock that there was lots of interest (in him).
"The opportunities that are going to present themselves for him; you're going to see a really good hockey player out there. Somewhere down the line, he's going to continue to score the goals, and at the end of the day, that's what you want."