An analysis of Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s trading tendencies

Posted by Richard Pollock in Columns,Winnipeg Jets on July 14, 2014 — 14 Comments

When the Winnipeg Jets organization hired Kevin Cheveldayoff on June 8, 2011, he came to the city of Winnipeg as a virtual unknown to many NHL hockey fans. Cheveldayoff had spent time mining his craft in the minor leagues to the tune of 12 seasons as general manager of the Chicago Wolves. That tenure was extremely successful, as Cheveldayoff’s teams went on to win a total of four championships–two in the International Hockey League and two in the American Hockey League.

After the above-referenced success, Cheveldayoff opted to remain in the city of Chicago, but take on a new challenge as the assistant general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. He spent two seasons in Chicago, one of which saw the organization hoist the Stanley Cup—albeit much of that success ought to be attributed to former Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon, who assembled much of what still remains the core of a tremendous hockey team.

Before being hired by the Winnipeg Jets, Cheveldayoff did interview, and was allegedly strongly considered, for the post of GM of the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes, a position he eventually lost out on to current Coyotes GM Don Maloney.

Chevy presser

Without a track record in the NHL aside from his short tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, few outside observers had any idea how Kevin Cheveldayoff would approach his position as GM of the Winnipeg Jets.

Comparing Cheveldayoff’s success in the IHL/AHL and NHL is a difficult task, but is especially so, considering the NHL has a strict salary cap in place. The AHL has no such cost certainty tying revenues to player salaries and therefore the Chicago Wolves, during Cheveldayoff’s tenure, were known as a free-spending team.

Even if the Winnipeg Jets ownership were to change their approach to free agency and trades, and adopt a free-spending mentality, the salary cap constraints fought so hard for by the owners, inhibits, to some degree, that intention.

We are left to analyze Cheveldayoff’s first three seasons atop the Jets’ management hierarchy in an attempt to understand his management approach on an ongoing, future, basis. It is worth noting, however, that past tendencies do not always determine future tendencies, but for the purposes of this analysis, it seems to be the most reasonable approach given the circumstances.

Trading

When looking at the various facets of an organization that a General Manager is responsible for, making trades may be the single facet over which the GM has the most control. As part of his job description, the GM has to have an awareness of every NHL team’s salary cap situation, and the respective talent level on the NHL and AHL rosters, never-mind the draft picks and future prospects each team holds the rights to.

In order to analyze Kevin Cheveldayoff’s trading tendencies with the Jets, we first must examine the volume of trades at the NHL level, in order to paint a full picture of trading tendencies in the NHL.

June 2011 through June 2012

As mentioned, Kevin Cheveldayoff was hired on June 8, 2011 to run the Winnipeg Jets’ hockey department. From June 2011 through June 2012 there were a total of 98 NHL trades, not including any draft pick for draft pick trades, or waiver wire acquisitions.

If every team made the same amount of trades, then one would expect each team to have made approximately six trades during that time frame (Hat tip: Thanks to commentor “gog” for the note). The Jets actually made five such trades, which were as follows:

1.  July 8, 2011: Acquired Eric Fehr from the Washington Capitals for Danick Paquette and a fourth round draft pick in 2012;

2.  July 9, 2011: Acquired Kenndal McArdle from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Angelo Esposito;

3.  January 30, 2012: Acquired John Negrin from the Calgary Flames for Akim Aliu;

4.  February 13, 2012: Acquired Maxim Macenauer from the Anaheim Ducks for Riley Holzapfel (Hat tip: Melissa Martin for this correction); and

5.  February 27, 2012: Acquired a second round pick in 2013 and a third round pick in 2013 in exchange for Johnny Oduya.

Below is a pie chart representing the Jets’ proportion of the NHL’s overall trade pie from June 2011 to June 2012.

2011-12

Of these trades, only two really had NHL roster implications. Eric Fehr’s season in Winnipeg was less than impressive, as the big winger struggled with shoulder problems, and his lack of foot speed severely hampered his ability to create consistent scoring opportunities.

Johnny Oduya was a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) and the Jets believed they had other players who could fill his role—plus he was going to ask for more money in free agency. The Jets stockpiled draft picks at the trade deadline, and Chicago solidified its top four—eventually winning another Stanley Cup.

June 2012 through June 2013

Even-though Cheveldayoff had settled in after a year as GM, and the Jets had completed their move of operations from Atlanta to Winnipeg, Cheveldayoff was not anymore active than he had been the season prior; in fact, Cheveldayoff made fewer trades from June 2012 to June 2013, than he had the calendar year prior.

Here are the trades made from June 2012 through June 2013:

1. June 23, 2012: Acquired Jonas Gustavsson from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick in 2013;

2. February 13, 2013: Acquired Eric Tangradi from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a seventh round pick in 2013;

3. February 13, 2013: Acquired a seventh round pick in 2013 and a fourth round pick in 2014 in exchange for Alexei Ponikarovski; and

4. March 10, 2013: Acquired Tomas Kubalik from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Spencer Machacek.

Here is a pie chart of the Jets’ percentage of transactions vis a vis the rest of the NHL for June 2012 through June 2013. With the Jets completing four of the total 96 trades made in the NHL, the Jets were, once again, slightly below the average trading figure for a 30 team league.

2012-13

While the Jets made a number of transactions the impact of these trades, at least at the NHL level, were negligible.

Jonas Gustavsson never signed in Winnipeg, so the condition of the trade was never satisfied and therefore the pick was not traded away. Eric Tangradi has been largely ineffective on the Jets thus far—although he somehow secured a two-year deal from the Jets, in what has proven to be a questionable signing.

Alexei Ponikarovsky was a signing gone wrong by Cheveldayoff, although he deserves credit for acknowledging that early in the season, and turning the limited asset that was Ponikarovsky into draft picks, rather than losing the player for no compensation, as ended up occurring with Ron Hainsey later that summer.

Spencer Machacek for Tomas Kulabik was strictly an AHL trade from the Jets perspective.

June 2013 through June 2014

Many thought that the 2013-14 season would be the season where fans would be afforded an opportunity to see what Kevin Cheveldayoff was all about. The Jets had finally moved to the Western Conference, and following a season of transition in 2011-12 and a lockout shortened 2012-13, many thought this would be the year that Cheveldayoff would try to leave his mark on the hockey club.

While no blockbuster trades were completed, the GM did complete two trades in this calendar year, featuring names recognizable to Winnipeg hockey fans.

1. June 30, 2013: Acquired Michael Frolik from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a 2013 third round pick and a fifth round pick in 2013; and

2. July 5, 2013: Acquired Devin Setoguchi from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2014 second round pick.

With a total of 96 trades in the NHL from June 2013 to June 2014, the Jets, with their two trades, made less than the average number of trades.

2013-14 Chart

The Frolik trade ended up working quite well for the Jets, as Frolik fit in well on the team’s third line, and eventually saw time in the top-six as well. Frolik is currently a restricted free agent who the Jets have opted to take to arbitration. It is expected that he will re-sign with the Jets prior to arbitration. We evaluated Frolik’s market value early in 2014 and that analysis can be found here.

The Setoguchi trade worked out as poorly, as Frolik’s worked well. The winger came into camp out of shape and never fit in on a Jets squad that was in need of a scoring touch. Many fans couldn’t wait to see the former Wild winger leave the city of Winnipeg.

Types of Trades

As we have accounted for 11 trades since June 2011 (remember—this excludes waiver claims and draft pick for draft pick trades), let’s examine precisely the types of trades the GM has made.

Chart 4

What may surprise you is that Kevin Cheveldayoff has actually traded draft picks on more occasions than he has acquired draft picks.

In total, Cheveldayoff has traded six draft picks (although one for Gustavsson ought to be excluded) and received four draft picks in return.

Chart 5

Chart 6

Disregarding the exchange of draft picks, as the net result of those moves is that all the draft picks that are traded, essentially are returned in another, similar, form, the most disconcerting part of Cheveldayoff’s tenure as GM of the Winnipeg Jets is that he has not made one NHL player for NHL player trade.

That seems quite astounding does it not? Repeating: In more than three years on the job, the GM has yet to trade an NHL player for an NHL player in return.

Given Cheveldayoff’s reluctance/inability to complete an NHL player for NHL player trade since June 2011, it seems appropriate to examine the trading records of every other NHL team, including those that have seen new GMs hired over the past three seasons, to examine if any of the other 29 NHL teams has also not completed an NHL player for NHL player trade.

Not surprisingly, no other NHL teams can claim that title. While Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh came close to matching the Jets reluctance to making NHL player for NHL player trades,—notwithstanding the fact that all three teams have reached the second round of the NHL playoffs in the past two seasons—the trades for Loui Eriksson, David Legwand and of Jordan Staal all resulted in them being eliminated from contention for such a title.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, Kevin Cheveldayoff’s inactivity has begun to define his tenure in Winnipeg. While drafting and developing is a significant part of today’s game, other teams are drafting and developing their players as well. Without a discernible edge in drafting, and given that the Jets appear to be a team sticking to its budget, and its mandate to spend very judiciously, the trading avenue needs to be a road explored by the Jets, just as it is by the NHL’s other 29 teams, in an effort to improve the team’s roster and subsequently its on-ice results.

Given the evidence presented above, making an NHL player for NHL player trade, does not seem to be a transaction manner that Kevin Cheveldayoff is overly comfortable with. How else does one explain the Jets’ absence of activity in this manner thus far?

  • Sailorcanuck

    Can you say “no trade clause”? It’s hard to make trades when the player involved doesn’t have Winnipeg on his acceptable trade list.

  • masterjuddi

    I think the “no trade clause” has something to do with it, but it’s probably more because each GM wants to win the trade and they need quality assets to trade away to fill holes. The Thrasher’s drafted terribly and left the Jets with low end prospects and a giant task of rebuilding.
    Now that there are some prospects in the system the Jets can at least assess what they have and what they need and hopefully make a good deal. Still both GM’s will want to win the trade.

  • ccrider2

    excellent article with substantiated facts. Bottom line; we are not in a good position, one that is currently hardened by older teams excepting the LEAFS. We are no better than 50% of the herd, and never will be until something miraculous happens, like maybe Hull and Ulfie returning. You can name substitutes but who could you possibly pry loose. Toews was our only hope and now he’s gone… period. Homegrown lightning in a bottle. After 3 drafts, we have no local talent other than Stoykewich who was already drafted by Atlanta. The no trade clause is sucking life out of the franchise faster than Dracula on prom night. So the Good OLE Boys have handed us the anchor and shoved us off to sea with a mighty har, har, har. sad.

  • Kevin Mark

    Chevy is not only risk averse, he seems to be paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake. For Winnipeg to be successful, a GM will have to roll the dice on some trades and take calculated risks – otherwise, we will be a perennial loser that misses the playoffs by 5-10 points every year.

  • gog

    I’m just curious about one detail. If there were 98 total trades in 2011/12, I’d assume that each trade involved 2 teams. Wouldn’t that mean that each team averaged 6 (or rather 6.5) trades during that season? (98×2-> 196/30)

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  • Bjernhjard Krowse

    Since Chevy’s M.O. is to keep his cards superglued to his chest, it’s hard to say what he’s exactly going for. Championship teams need to both develop players and attract outside talent. He’s clearly working on the former but since he’s not saying what the team needs now to be successful, no one seems to know for sure what he’s working on, other than making inferences through his draft picks. However, I’m far from thinking he doesn’t have a plan. One team that was recently in a similar position is the Wild. GM Chuck Fletcher became the Wild’s GM in 2009 and took over a team that boasted the likes of Gaborik, some good (at the time) 2nd-3rd liners in Koivu, Brunnette, P-M Bouchard, Nolan, and a decent though hardly intimidating defensive core. Sounds familiar. In fact, the biggest difference between our teams is that Backstrom was in his prime, whereas Pavelec has gained a lot of detractors within the past couple years, myself included. In any case, Risebrough handed the keys to a middling NHL team and an empty cupboard over to Fletcher. After some really good draft picks and shrewd trades, the Wild suddenly looked a lot better. Moreover, Parise and Suter would NOT have signed in Minnesota had they not already seen the direction the team was heading with guys like Granlund, Brodin, Coyle, regardless of family connections. Last year was the first since Fletcher came on board that the Wild were actually a competitive team. That took 4 years. Now compare with Chevy’s work. His first two 1st rd picks are playing well in the NHL, and the rest of the stable is looking very respectable, and something Jets fans can get excited about. The team looked downright competitive when they brought Maurice aboard, something I suspected would happen once they FINALLY got rid of Noel. Now I’m just waiting for Chevy to make a move on Kane and possibly Byfuglien. In any case, I think this is the year where we ought to be able to see the fruits of Chevy’s work, and I have a hunch that some folks will be surprised, especially outside of Winnipeg. What could dampen things though is the seemingly overall improvement of the Central Division, and this will likely only highlight Chevy’s apparent inaction. I, for one, am not in panic mode. Far from it. I think Chevy has actually done a fairly good job, lack of trades be damned. Now we just wait and see.

  • ccrider2

    hang this on the wall. a year from now take another look…boo! too much escapism here. Chevy will continue claiming and claiming and claiming… he is a minor leaguer GM, doesn`t belong at this level at all. watch him dump our stockpile of goalies for more claimer openings. This is a real joke.

  • Vin Ablack

    I agree. Too many people want instant results just to make the playoffs. Sure you can trade to get the team into the playoffs now, then what do you do when you make the playoffs and get bounced in the first round, year after year? Keep trading like the Leafs until you have no young assets in your system? History has shown that the really good teams today, really sucked for several years prior. The media keeps harping that the Jets haven’t made the playoffs for the past 7/8 yrs. Really? We as Jets fans have been watching the Jets for only 3 yrs. Most of us appreciate the Atlanta history, but that is not the Winnipeg Jets history as far a I’m concerned. This franchise is 3-4 yrs old and we’re trending up with some pretty good roster players and draft picks. Let’s give Kane and Bufuglien a chance with Maurice as coach for a full year before we give up on them. Remember we have Lowry and Kosmaschuk knocking at the door, Petan, Morrissey & J.C Lipon not too far away. Nic Ehjlers looks pretty special too. Even the goaltending looks better for the future. Let’s be patient and let Chevy work his plan.

  • Bjernhjard Krowse

    On a related note, what are the odds Chevy could package Kane and, say, a 3rd rd pick for Ryan O’Reilly?

  • Vin Ablack

    What are we trying to do here, by trading Kane and Byfuglien, the only thing the Jets would accomplish is to be an ‘all-white’ team, and a less than mediocre one at that. We have a new coach, let’s see if the team can carry on where they left off last year when everybody was healthy. I’d love to see, Ladd. Little and Lowry, Kane, Scheifele & Wheeler, Bufyglien, Perreault & Frolik, Cormier, Slater & J.P Lipon. With guys like Kosmachuk, Petan, O’Dell in the wings for now. Since most experts don’t give the Jets a chance, I say, give the kids a chance. Morrissey might even have a chance to make the Jets this year too. All this without trading away drafts or assets.

  • Tennis Newz

    Looking at the Jets roster, I was trying to figure out who you could actually use in a player for player trade. My list (not including rookies in this) is Little, Ladd, Wheeler, Kane, Frolik after he’s signed, Buff, and Enstrom. I think that’s really it. And there aren’t any other players to add to it from previous seasons. Of those players, trading Buff might be the only move that makes sense and only because of his contract status. Next best choice is probably Ladd. If by moving one of those guys they can get a good younger player in return. Any move will probably set them back short-term. Not that I’d be opposed to that considering how tough it’ll be for them to make the playoffs this year and how good the top 2 picks are in the next draft.

  • Vin Ablack

    There is an old saying, “the GM who listens to the fans, will soon be joining them in the stands.” I agree with Chevy when he implied that the best system is when the young guys in the system begin to push the older guys for roster spots. I think we’re almost to that point. Morrissey will be pushing for a defense spot this year, as will guys like Lowry,& Kosmachuk. Ifthey succeed, some useful roster guys might be moving on. I believe you trade roster guys only if you’re close to going deep in the playoffs and such a move would benefit you team. If there’s no chance of making the playoffs, my opinions is to go with the young guys and see what they can do, not trade them.