NASHVILLE — Kevin Cheveldayoff acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois in hopes the star centre would be with Winnipeg Jets for the rest of his career.
When it became apparent that was no longer in the cards, the veteran general manager changed course to secure three players that should offer the organization more depth and flexibility.
Winnipeg dealt Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in a sign-and-trade move that saw forwards Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari and Gabriel Vilardi plus a second-round pick at the 2024 NHL draft head to Manitoba’s capital.
“Players, at a certain point in their careers, get choices and they earn those choices,” Cheveldayoff said Wednesday. “You’d have to ask Pierre-Luc, in his mind, why he made the decisions that he made, but for us as an organization, you have to take chances, take swings.
“Some of them work, some of them you have to pivot and move in a different direction.”
Cheveldayoff said the trade offers Winnipeg more flexibility, and should offer increased opportunity to its younger players, including centre Cole Perfetti.
“Our top-9 now has a lot of different kinds of players that can come in and contribute in a lot of different ways,” he said. “When we look at the evolution of franchises, you look at the development of franchises, everyone can say, ‘Play the young players.’
“But have to have the opportunities in front of them. Sometimes you have to move players, sometimes you have to do different things, in order to offer those opportunities.”
Iafallo, 29, had 14 goals and 36 points in 59 games for the Kings in 2022-23.
Vilardi, 23, had 23 goals and 41 points played 63 games, while Kupari, who’s also 23, registered three goals and 15 points in 66 contests last season.
“We’re very excited about the pieces that we acquired,” Cheveldayoff said. “Had a conversation with all of them and told him that it was an important step for our organization to add some depth and dimension.
“We’ve got two younger players that I think are just starting to come into their own and have a tremendous amount of ability to grow as hockey players.”
The future of Dubois in Winnipeg had been a frequent source of speculation as the end of the season approached.
Dubois, who’s now set to earn US$68 million over the next eight seasons, was drafted third overall at the 2016 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets before being dealt along with a third-round pick to the Jets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in 2021.
Cheveldayoff spoke at the team’s end-of-year media availability about having talks with Dubois as well as forwards Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, along with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, regarding new contracts.
The GM said a buyout is an option for Wheeler.
“One of the options that we are looking at,” Cheveldayoff said. “Sometimes you can get creative in this game, as well.
“You’re looking at all the different options before you make your final decisions.”
Scheifele and Hellebuyck, meanwhile, who are both signed for next season before potentially heading to unrestricted free agency remain important parts of the organization, but could be moved if the right deal comes along.
“Each situation is different in its own individual right,” Cheveldayoff said. “Helle and Scheif are big parts of our franchise. At this time of the year, I know it’s an uncomfortable thing where there’s lots of different conversations that do go on.
“But for us right now, our focus is that they’re Winnipeg Jets and we’re looking forward to moving forward with them.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press