To the disappointment of their supporters, give Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff credit for knowing how to play the game… and I’m not talking about hockey.
Cheveldayoff, ostensibly, recalled an old poker adage: If you don’t know who at the table is the sucker, then you are the sucker.
So Cheveldayoff folded, essentially dropping Winnipeg out of the race for a Stanley Cup playoff berth this season by dealing Jets captain Andrew Ladd back to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Despite Winnipeg sitting in a tie for sixth place with Minnesota in the Central Division, a mere two points behind Colorado (and ahead of the Pacific Division’s No. 4 team) for the final berth into the Western Conference bracket, Cheveldayoff accepts reality.
The Jets are the smallest market in the NHL. They play in the smallest arena and their revenues remain modest – especially with the devaluation of the Loonie. At least, that’s what the GM said regarding today’s “economic realities.”
Ladd was one of two unrestricted free agents on his Winnipeg roster; he could sign one but not both. So he elected to sign defenseman Dustin Byfuglien instead – a five-year, $38 million contract extension.
If this financial “crisis” (the GM’s words) are true, the connotation means the NHL needs to quickly press the button to remove the franchise from Manitoba and bring the Jets to Las Vegas.
To Chicago Blackhawks
A 2004 first-round draft pick for Carolina, Ladd returns to the Blackhawks, which originally traded him to the Atlanta Thrashers a year before vacating Georgia for the Canadian plains. He fills the role of a Top 6 forward, owning two Stanley Cup wins; the first was with the Hurricanes is rookie year,
Head coach Joel Quenneville told WGN-AM Ladd will start on the second line “unless he’s ready for the first line when he gets here.” High praise.
Hawks GM Stan Bowman (son of legendary coach Scotty Bowman) is known for at least one trade as the deadline approaches, but he had more to come by acquiring Tomas Fleischmann from Montreal.
With Ladd and Fleischmann in the lineup, the result was Sunday’s 3-2 win over Washington.
To Montreal Canadiens
Although goalie Carey Price was in full gear at a recent practice, the Canadiens seem poised to play for the future in their deal with Chicago.
Price, who’s been out since Thanksgiving, makes his status for a long Cup run questionable. Thus, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin is re-loaded for 2017.
The Habs will be bolstered with a second-round pick and a former-first-rounder (2011) in Phillip Danault.
To New York Rangers
Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis finally agreed to trade team captain Eric Staal to the Rangers. Staal, long-time face of the franchise after leading the Canes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, is the team record holder in games played, goals scored, and assists since they relocated from Hartford. He becomes united with brother Marc Staal, an all-star defenseman.
Carolina received the Rangers’ second-round draft pick in 2016 and 2017 plus 2015 third-round pick forward Aleksi Saarela.
To Los Angeles Kings
With Marian Gaborik – a two-time Cup winner for Chicago – out indefinitely, the Kings acquired Kris Versteeg from Carolina for a prospect and a conditional fifth-round draft pick. They had wanted Edmonton’s Teddy Purcell, but the Oilers sent him to Florida.
To Florida Panthers
The Panthers began their first playoff push in more than a decade by picking up veteran Jiri Hudler from Calgary for a draft pick.
To San Jose Sharks
Gained physicality by obtaining rugged defenseman Roman Polak and fourth-line center Nick Spalling from Toronto.
“My” Kings have gone UNDER the total in eight straight until Sunday’s loss at Anaheim.
However, the game went OVER thanks to three power play goals by Anaheim, which is 13-for-26 with the man advantage during its 8-game win streak.
The Kings often go OVER vs. the Ducks, extending the streak to nine straight (5-0-4) since claiming Game 7 in a playoff series in 2014.
Contact Nick at [email protected].