1. Kevin Cheveldayoff Has to Adapt to This New Era
Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets ownership group’s general approach has been to draft well and develop that talent. The team has had many success stories with this approach producing players like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, and Josh Morrissey.
It is a sound approach for an NHL team, particularly in a small, less desirable market, where marquee free agents are unlikely to sign. It has allowed the Jets to capitalize on above average value for players still on their entry-level contracts. In addition, the Jets have been able to lock in a number of players that they drafted into a reasonable average annual value second contract, such as all of the players mentioned above.
With the increase in player empowerment in the NHL teams like the Jets are going to have a tougher time signing players to their second contract following their entry-level deal, and definitely, their third contract, as we are seeing with Pierre-Luc Dubois.
This does not mean that the draft and develop philosophy needs to be abandoned. However, it does mean that teams need to move the asset management approach to players, similar to that in the NBA. One of the characteristics of the Jets management and ownership group has been loyalty to players and coaches, perhaps at times to the detriment of the team.
To respond to these changing times, Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to be more proactive in terms of player asset management – signing players, trades, and free agency. I am not suggesting a complete roster turnover every year but taking a smart, ruthless, asset management approach, rather than one based on long-term loyalty to players.
Again, we can look to the NBA for an example. The Toronto Raptors took some massive risks in 2018 trading a franchise cornerstone player they drafted and developed (Demar Derozan) for one season of disgruntled, top three NBA player who they knew they would likely would never re-sign (Kawhi Leonard). In addition, they dumped a well respected, experienced but mediocre coach (Dwayne Casey) for an innovative, creative coach (Nick Nurse).
The result was an NBA championship for the Raptors in 2019. I am not suggesting that making similar moves in the NHL equates to a Stanley Cup. However, I do think that it is worth the risk, and the best approach to adapt to an era all teams, particularly those like the Jets are going to continue to be at risk of losing top talent.
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