A man named Mick once recited some words into a studio microphone and out popped out one of history’s most widely recognized songs.
“You can’t always get what you want” is an excellent summation for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his Winnipeg Jets, who may have lost the Mark Stone Sweepstakes on Monday, but ended up getting what they needed after leading the day with six transactions.
Stone, of course, was the de facto top prize for several teams heading into the day. His homecoming to Winnipeg, the city he grew up in and just a couple hours east of where he played junior hockey, would have been the stuff movies are made of. But when the Jets announced they had acquired Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers, it was evident that Stone’s ship had passed them by.
Your eyes, understandably, light up when one of the league’s premier two-way players enters the market. It’s a no-brainer that Cheveldayoff and his Cup contender wanted in, and he certainly had the assets to get the deal done.
But when you’re a general manager that has raised a stable of prospects like Cheveldayoff has, parting with them isn’t easy. And if the Jets couldn’t re-sign Stone long-term (and it would have required some significant roster surgery to make it work), then giving up names like Jack Roslovic and Sami Niku likely became a non-starter for what would have amounted to a very expensive rental player.
None of this is to say that the Jets didn’t go out and get what they needed on Monday. The thought process coming into the 2019 trade deadline was similar to that of the year before: the Jets wanted a second-line center to bolster an already potent offense.
They got that in Hayes, 26, who will suit up for the Jets on Tuesday after being acquired for a first-round pick in 2019, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 and forward Brendan Lemieux. The Jets didn’t waste any time getting that deal out of the way, either, striking an accord with the Rangers in the early goings of Monday’s proceedings.
“Kevin is a good fit for us in many, many ways,” Cheveldayoff said after hanging up the phone on his sixth and final trade call of the day. “He’s someone, I think everyone talks about, obviously, his size and his offensive abilities, but I really think what’s really going to shine through here is his defensive abilities as well. Penalty killer, responsible — he’s someone, over the course of his career, has grown his game from just being a pure offensive player in high school and in college and grown his game to a really mature professional game.”
Offloading Lemieux was a shrewd move and an example of selling high on a player who was producing above what was expected.
Winnipeg learned last year when they pulled the wool over the entire league’s eyes and traded for Paul Stastny, just how valuable another center was when added to their lineup. The Jets went all the way to the Western Conference final thanks, in part, to Stastny’s efforts. The expectation is for Hayes to do the same.
The Jets then added two left-shot defensemen, a spot on their roster that needed extra depth, especially after top-pairing d-man Josh Morrissey went down with an apparent arm injury in a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. With no conclusive status on Morrissey’s diagnosis — or at least that’s what the media was fed on Monday — Winnipeg traded for Nathan Beaulieu and Bogdan Kiselevich, two depth guys who offer enough upside to fill in if need be on the Jets’ back end.
Cheveldayoff wasn’t going to be caught off guard this time around.
“A couple of years ago, the night before the deadline we lost Mark Scheifele and it’s a very difficult situation going in at that point in time when you don’t have options in front of you, there are no centermen on market to really cover yourself with,” Cheveldayoff said. “In this situation here, obviously, Dustin [Byfuglien] is out, Joe Morrow is out and Josh [Morrissey] is still going to be evaluated. The team stayed in Arizona overnight, it was a scheduled travel day the way our schedule is set up. It made it difficult for [Morrissey] to really get assessed by our doctors in a timely fashion and I felt it was appropriate that we need to add the pieces to have the depth moving forward here.”
The rest of the West’s powerhouses all added to their rosters, so Winnipeg needed to do so as well. Hayes is a solid fit for the Jets. The depth defensemen were the insurance plan they required.
And in the end, Winnipeg did what it set out to do: improve its team.