It’s been two months since we first provided the roadmap for Kevin Cheveldayoff’s 2020 off-season. After a flurry of activity around the draft and free agency, the Jets are likely done with their major moves and are only a Roslovic contract away from having a respectable opening day roster. Barring a surprise trade, the Jets are likely not doing much else before the start of the season. With that in mind, let’s see how the actual moves made are different from the checklist we provided in September.
Sign the RFA’s
Cheveldayoff’s first task was to sign the RFA’s. There were four important RFA’s to sign and currently three of them are under contract. As mentioned above, Jack Roslovic is the only RFA that doesn’t have a new contract. All three of Niku, Appleton, and Harkins signed two-year deals with Niku and Harkins at the league minimum salary and Mason Appleton at $900k per year.
None of these deals were expected to be a problem because these players are lower in the depth chart with little bargaining power. Roslovic on the other hand has a few more years and more points to consider when signing a new contract. There were times when Roslovic was projected to be the next second-line center for Winnipeg, but those dreams haven’t become reality yet. Roslovic still has room to grow but his ceiling seems more of a third-line player than a consistent top-six contributor. There’s nothing wrong with Roslovic being a third-line player, but it’s tougher to get a contract done with Roslovic because he’s likely pushing for a large raise and more responsibility while the club doesn’t want to spend too much on a bottom-six winger. Despite these potential differences, there likely won’t be a problem getting a deal done as there’s plenty of time before the season starts.
Because we are still waiting on this last and most important RFA deal, we will give Cheveldayoff a grade of “B-” for the first item on his checklist.
Sign Dylan Demelo
The second item on the “to do” list was to sign Dylan DeMelo to a new contract. We originally said that “A three or four year contract with a reasonable cap hit should be a major priority of Cheveldayoff.” Kevin Cheveldayoff delivered in a major way by signing the defensemen to a four-year extension with a $3 million AAV. That’s a very reasonable cap hit for a player who does the little things well. He won’t make the highlight reel plays, but he will consistently make the smart play and provide a steady presence every game. DeMelo can hopefully jumpstart Josh Morrissey on the top pairing who had a bit of a down year last season.
Cheveldayoff gets an “A+” for this signing due to the length and excellent cap hit.
Drafting is always tough to grade because nobody really knows how the picks turn out until years down the road. The Jets had a phenomenal 2015 draft, but nobody knew that until the last year or two when Appleton and Harkins continued to take steps forward.
Keeping that in mind, the Jets seemed to have got a steal with their 10th pick as Cole Perfetti dropped right into Cheveldayoff’s lap. A lot of projections had Perfetti going much higher, even into the top five of some mock drafts. Getting him at 10th was a huge win for Cheveldayoff, especially since there were only four draft picks to use this year.
Despite the limited selections, Cheveldayoff seemed to have a decent draft. Getting Perfetti is a huge win, but its unclear how the other players will develop over the next few years.
It’s a tough one to grade, but getting Perfetti allows the grade of a ‘”B+” for the draft.
Fill out the roster with UFA’s
The Jets have made a handful of signings in free agency although none of them have been a big splash. Nate Thompson was added as a fourth-line center, similar to Nick Shore from last year. The Jets also added Dominic Toninato who could find his way down with the Moose next year. Recently, the Jets brought back former player Marko Dano with a one-year deal. On defense, the team brought back both Beaulieu and Sbisa while they added Derek Forbort. Forbort is a 28-year-old, left-handed defensemen who plays a physical game. He’s 6’4 and 219 pounds which should complement the smaller Neal Pionk on the second pairing. He’s the first true defensive defensemen the Jets have had in recent memory and the team hopes he can help give some more support to Connor Hellebuyck.
None of these deals really move the needle for the Jets as all but Forbort are depth moves. The Jets weren’t expected to go big in free agency, but this lackluster effort gets a “C” from Cheveldayoff.
The Jets brought back Brossoit for another season which was expected. However, the one thing that wasn’t expected was the deal to bring in Paul Stastny. Cheveldayoff’s checklist specifically mentioned that the Jets should use their cap space to try and make a trade. They did exactly that as they brought in Paul Stastny from the Golden Knights who were clearing cap space off their books. The price paid was minimal as Carl Dahlstrom and a fourth-round pick went the other way. Stastny already has some experience in Winnipeg after a Stanley Cup run back in 2018. He knows the team and the coach which should help his transition back to the Jets. Although some people thought that this was too much in return for the 34-year-old from a team who was desperately trying to clear cap space, Stastny still brings plenty of value in the top six.
Just being able to get the trade done was a great move for Cheveldayoff. Solving the second-line center position for at least one more season without giving up a top pick or a roster player is a big win. This trade gets an “A” for Cheveldayoff.
To recap, it’s been a fairly strong off-season for the Jets who have solved their second-line center woes and have brought in a few depth pieces to help throughout the lineup. The only piece left is to sign Jack Roslovic and this club is ready to roll for the new season.