WINNIPEG - Kevin Cheveldayoff sees brighter days ahead for the Winnipeg Jets.
During a 40-minute, season-ending address with the local media on Tuesday, the general manager of the Jets didn't make any bold proclamation, but reiterated the franchise was moving in the right direction and will be actively looking at ways to improve the roster that finished with a record of 37-35-10 and missed the playoffs in the Eastern Conference by eight points.
"There's obviously tremendous room for improvement in many areas," said Cheveldayoff. "There was a period of time when we struggled to score goals, and it became, 'well these guys can't score, we need to get a goal-scorer.' And then there was a period of time when we were scoring goals and pucks were going in, and it was like, 'Man oh man, they better shore up the defence.'
"I'd love to get bigger. From a size perspective there are areas we would like to address, be it short-term or long-term."
Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason provided solid goaltending this season, but both are in need of new contracts.
"We're strong in net," said Cheveldayoff. "(Pavelec) is someone that is continuing to grow into his role as a premier goaltender. He played the most games that he's had at the National League level, and obviously that's a taxing thing, but something he'll grow from as well."
The Jets have seven unrestricted free agents and four restricted free agents, so it could be an interesting summer on the negotiation front.
Cheveldayoff said he's spoken to several agents for his pending free agents, but no numbers or proposals have been exchanged so far.
As far as the opening of free agency on July 1 goes, Cheveldayoff isn't worried about attracting players, based on the atmosphere at MTS Centre and the reputation the franchise is developing.
"I don't think I have to sell it," he said. "It sells itself. The players have certainly been open about it. I'm proud of this city, I'm proud of this building. If I have to oversell someone to do something, then they're probably not the right guy."
The Jets are slated to draft ninth in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and Cheveldayoff said he's open to moving the pick -- provided the price is right.
"It'd be extremely high," he said. "Because we're talking about the future of this franchise. My commitment to not mortgage the future, that will be unwavered. It'll be a process that at times people may say you need to accelerate. If the right pieces are there to accelerate the process, then we will. If it involves a draft pick or it involves a player, we're not going to be afraid to make that move. But it's going to be well calculated and meaningful."
Much of the talk going into the season was about creating a winning culture and Cheveldayoff said the organization has taken steps to implementing that change.
"You don't just walk in and say, 'Gentlemen, we're changing the culture.' It's a long process," said Cheveldayoff. "The beliefs, the core values you have to demonstrate, or it has to be demonstrated through different actions or beliefs by the players that it is going in the right direction. That's what changes the culture. The actual culture change doesn't happen first. Changing things behind the scenes, changing the way you do business, what we're all about, those are the things we want to get the players to buy in and believe what this organization is about. And ultimately, that's when the culture changes.
"We're putting the things in place that will ultimately change this culture in the future."