'This isn’t fantasy hockey': Jets' Cheveldayoff completes 1 trade on deadline day

Kevin Cheveldayoff says the additions of veteran forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Nino Niederreiter should help a struggling Winnipeg Jets team he believes can push for the playoffs.

The Jets general manager also reminded fans the reality of making trades isn’t like a hockey pool.

“I think fans, obviously, hope that you’re going to do more,” Cheveldayoff told reporters after Friday’s NHL trade deadline passed.

“Certainly, the advent of social media, there’s a lot of misinformation out there that fans tend to maybe gravitate towards and maybe get a little bit overly excited about the different opportunities that you have in front of you.

“This isn’t fantasy hockey – this is real.”

The Jets were on a season-high four-game losing skid (0-3-1) heading into a game Friday night against Edmonton and had one victory in their past seven games (1-5-1).

Cheveldayoff was asked about comments some players made earlier in the week about wanting management to invest in making the team stronger.

He said he looked at the holes in the roster and thinks Namestnikov and Niederreiter can address some issues in the forward group, the club has depth on defence and a “world-class” goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck.

“You need to construct a team that works well together and you need to construct a team that has cohesiveness,” he said. “It’s not about getting the next new shiny toy.

“It’s about the pieces that you think that can fit the character and work together with your room. I think the opportunity for these players to show, this group here, that we believed in can take you to the next level with a couple of additions. That’s what we did.”

Cheveldayoff said he had to be mindful of a hard salary cap and factors such as keeping cash on hand for performance bonuses and call-ups.

“We’ve traded a lot of (draft) picks over the period time to assemble this team,” he said. “We were aggressive. We were in the market.

“We got players that we feel help us win right now and that’s the most important thing.”

Namestnikov was acquired from the San Jose Sharks Friday for a fourth-round pick in the 2025 NHL draft. It’s the seventh club for the 30-year-old son of former NHL defenceman Evgeny Namestnikov.

It was also the second trade this week for the pending unrestricted free agent, who had six goals and nine assists in 57 games with Tampa Bay this season.

Namestnikov was traded to San Jose from the Lightning on Wednesday for Michael Eyssimont. Tampa Bay retained 50 per cent of Namestnikov’s US$2.5 million salary. It was the fourth time the six-foot, 179-pound forward from Russia has been traded on deadline day.

Niederreiter, 30, was traded to Winnipeg from the Nashville Predators last Saturday for a second-round pick in the 2024 draft. The six-foot-two, 218-pound winger was used on Winnipeg’s second line in the team’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

In the past few weeks, the Jets (35-24-2 as of Friday) have tumbled from second place in the Central Division to sitting in the Western Conference second wild-card spot Friday morning behind the Edmonton Oilers. The clubs began a back-to-back series Friday night in Edmonton and Saturday in Winnipeg.

Jets centre Mark Scheifele heard the news in Edmonton about Namestnikov.

“I’ve seen him over the years, playing on the power play this season with the big guns in Tampa,” Scheifele said. “Now we have him here, and we’ll see what he’s got.”

Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness likes Namestnikov’s skill set.

“It’s a good addition,” Bowness said. “Vladdy, first of all, he’s a great person and great teammate.
“He’s a very versatile forward who can play all three forward positions. He can kill penalties, you can throw him into the top six every now and then, and if the power play is struggling, he can help that. It’s his versatility that’s the big attraction to him.”

Namestnikov was drafted in the first round (27th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011. He’s played 610 career games with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avalanche Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars, accumulating 113 goals and 138 assists.

The Jets needed to fill some holes in their forward group because of injuries to Mason Appleton, centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and rookie Cole Perfetti. Bowness said Dubois was doubtful for Friday, Appleton is out this weekend and Perfetti is sidelined for the rest of the regular season.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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