An analysis of Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s trading tendencies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?