The Surprising and Welcomed Summer of Chevy

How the typically inactive Kevin Cheveldayoff has transformed the Winnipeg Jets into an instant contender

I am just going to guess that you don’t know much about the geography that surrounds Winnipeg, the capital city of Friendly Manitoba. It is flat. Very flat. However, not too far away is cottage country. One of the most beautiful is just over the border into Ontario called Lake of the Woods. When summer is nigh and the work is done, many Winnipeggers make the weekly trek out to the cottage in Lake of the Woods. This includes Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Now “Chevy”, as he is known, has been accused of really putting the “day off” in “Cheveldayoff” when it comes to doing summer Jets business. Spends all summer at the cottage at Lake of the Woods they say. I hate this narrative. Even though I have personally witnessed “Chevy” buy groceries at the Kenora Safeway. Oh well.

In contrast to this narrative, we have the summer of 2021. It is being called “The Summer of Chevy” in Winnipeg. And summer really started cooking on Wednesday, July 21st – the date of the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.

As we have discussed on the podcast, there has been great debate in Winnipeg about whether the Jets should protect the valuable and effective Dylan DeMelo, or the very tall Logan Stanley. The Jets mysteriously opted to protect young Logan over DeMelo. Social media chaos ensued. However, it was on July 21st that the Jets learned that the Kraken, reinforcing their image as a mysterious creature with uncertain motives, opted to select the capable but replaceable forward Mason Appleton. Somehow, the Jets got to keep their cake and eat it too, retaining BOTH Stanley and DeMelo without providing ANY compensation to the Kraken. No toll was owed to the creature of the deep. But even with that accomplished – by design or by chance – the Jets needed to do a lot more in order to shore up their roster, especially on the defense. More on that later.

In a recent podcast, the Airport Lounge suggested that the Jets were at a crossroads – we were going to find out whether it was the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end. If it was going to be the end of the beginning, we would see some aggressive more to improve the roster and make a push for a deep run in the playoffs. If was going to be the beginning of the end, we would avoid risks, hoping that the current roster could stop the slow slide into mediocrity that has been unfolding over the past few seasons. Chevy would retreat to the comfortable confines of cottage country and watch YouTube highlights of the Jets sweeping the Oilers in the 2021 playoffs.

I think it is fair to say that this question has been answered in resounding fashion – the Jets are “IN”. And I like it!

The first move the Jets made was to re-sign Paul Stastny to a one-year, $3.75-million contract. The interesting thing about this signing was it came prior to the official start of Free Agency. The signing was on Monday, July 26th with Free Agency not starting until Wednesday, July 28th. I think there is a decent statement here that “Pauly Walnuts” chose NOT to explore the market. He is not the impact player he once was, however I still believe he can be an effective player on the 2nd or 3rd line. I love the term and do not hate the cap hit. All in all, it’s great to see Stastny back in a Jets jersey.

Well, that is a decent Monday in July if you are Kevin Cheveldayoff BUT HE WASN’T DONE. Just as we were drinking in the delicious taste of the Stastny re-signing, we were informed of another bold move – acquiring Brendan Dillion from the Washington Capitals for two 2nd round picks.  At 6’4” and 220 lbs, Dillon brings the size and physicality that Paul Maurice is looking for from his defender. My initial thought is that Dillion is the perfect upgrade to play beside Pionk – if the Jets could re-sign the RFA.

With that, Chevy is off to Lake of the Woods, no? No one would have blamed him. No one expects the Jets to make a big splash in Free Agency. Yeah, there was this rumour about possibly acquiring one of, or both, Nate Schmidt and Brock Boeser from the Canucks (a team who seemed to be going out of their way to light themselves on fire). Those rumours seemed to be extinguished by reports that Schmidt had been asked, but had refused to waive his no-trade-to-the-Winnipeg-Jets clause (which is standard in most NHL contracts). It is a nice thought, but the reality was … wait … what? Bygawd … is that Nate Schmidt’s music?

On Tuesday we learned that the Jets had in fact acquired Nate Schmidt from the Canucks for a 3rd round pick. It was in the aftermath of this trade that we learned it was the telephone testimony from Paul Stastny that made the difference for Schmidt in his decision to waive his no-move clause and come to the Jets. All of Schmidt’s advanced stats were very good until last year – he had excellent numbers from his four years with the Capitals and three with Vegas. He has played with both Stastny and Dillion in the past, so there will be some familiar faces in the Jets locker room. Schmidt brings an offensive flair, an ability to skate and move the puck out of the zone (and into the offensive zone), and a great personality.

With Chevy then moving quickly to re-sign RFA Logan Stanley to a two-year, $900,000 per year contract, there was only RFAs Pionk and Copp to worry about. Both had filed for arbitration, so were likely to be Winnipeg Jets next season. But if they were going to be Jets long-term remained to be determined.

But as mid-August approached, Chevy must have been craving some lake time, because he had no intension of spending the rest of August in arbitration hearings. So, Pionk and Copp get re-signed! Sacre Bleu!! The Summer of Chevy has been a whirlwind of unexpected positivity. Can we have nice things?

Maybe … and perhaps soon. My podcast co-host Mike Guthrie will have some more on what this Summer means for the Jets, and what we might expect for the 2021-22 season.

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