By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Kevin Cheveldayoff made a league-high six trades on Monday, but whether quantity produces quality on the ice remains to be seen.
The Jets general manager started the day picking up big centre Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers for Brendan Lemieux, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022.
He then added some depth acquiring centre Matt Hendricks from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round pick; Par Lindholm from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nic Petan in a swap of forwards; defenceman Bogdan Kiselevich from the Florida Panthers for a seventh-rounder in 2021; defenceman Nathan Beaulieu from the Buffalo Sabres for a sixth-round pick this year and minor-league forward Alex Broadhurst from Columbus for future considerations.
“Well, I think regardless of the number that I made, I didn’t set out to try to set any type of records or any type of personal accomplishments or anything like that,” Cheveldayoff told reporters a couple hours after the trade deadline passed.
“I think from Day 1 with the organization, and my tenure here, we’ve said we’ll do whatever we need to do. Whether that’s make some trades, acquire some draft picks.”
The deal got the thumbs up from Hayes, who used to sport a Winnipeg Jets jersey as a kid.
Cousins with original Jets star Keith Tkachuk, he cheered for Winnipeg with the rest of his family in the Boston area before the franchise relocated to Arizona in 1996.
“It’s obviously tough to leave New York, but I’m excited to join the Jets,” the six-foot-five, 216-pound native of Dorchester, Mass., said on a conference call. “Everyone knows how good they are and the type of players they have.
“I’m excited to get going.”
The 26-year-old Hayes, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, has 14 goals and 28 assists in 51 games this season.
He’s registered 216 points (87 goals, 129 assists) in 361 career NHL games over five seasons and added two goals and eight assists in 34 career playoff games.
Hayes said he’s already heard from Jets captain Blake Wheeler, and is looking forward to meeting the rest of his new teammates on Tuesday, when Winnipeg hosts Minnesota.
It’s possible Hayes will be slotted in the middle of the second line.
“I think everyone talks about, obviously, (Hayes’) size and his offensive abilities, but I really think what’s really going to shine through here is his defensive abilities as well,” Cheveldayoff said.
Winnipeg’s defensive play has been inconsistent, and its actual defensive corps has been hit by injuries. Most recently, it was top-pairing defenceman Josh Morrissey getting hit into the boards in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Arizona. He’s still being evaluated and won’t play Tuesday, Cheveldayoff said. Defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and Joe Morrow are out with injuries.
The Jets are 37-21-4 and in top spot in the Central Division, but they’re 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.
“I like this group,” Cheveldayoff said. “No two years are ever going to be similar, even if you have every single player the same. You’re going to go through your ups, you’re going to go through your downs, you’re going to have your adversity.”
Cheveldayoff said returning Hendricks to the fold adds some leadership.
Hendricks, 37, was a free-agent signing for the Jets last season, scoring five goals and finishing with 13 points in 60 games. He moved on to the Wild and played 22 games and contributed a pair of assists this season, taking him to 603 career games.
“Some of our younger players that were around our team last year benefitted immensely with the experience that they got with Matt,” Cheveldayoff said. “Some of our veteran players benefitted immensely from it. So as an organization, we’re excited to have him back.”
Winnipeg acquired centre Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues last February as the team loaded up for a playoff run that would end with a five-game defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final. Stastny signed with Vegas as a UFA over the summer.
“It’s a great feeling to feel wanted,” Hayes said. “It’s been rumoured for a little bit that this would be the place I’d end up at. I was actually hoping that it was the place.
“It’s nice that they gave up a lot for me. I’m just hoping I can come in and show them it was worth it.”
The conditional pick in Monday’s trade would see Winnipeg’s fourth-round selection in 2022 go to New York if the Jets with the Stanley Cup this spring.
-With files from Joshua Clipperton