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While team president Don Waddell said he wasn't following the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, GM Rick Dudley was hopeful that he could remain with the team to continue building a playoff contender.

As Dudley told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, via the Free Press:

"I believe this is a wonderful hockey team that's just a couple pieces away from being an elite team. … I guess if you're not there for that again, it'd probably be the third time that that's happened (including his stints with Tampa Bay and Chicago, both of which became Stanley Cup champions after he left). It would be the third time. That would be a little frustrating to be quite candid."

According to the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, prepare to be frustrated, Mr. Dudley. The paper claims that Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is the frontrunner for the GM job with the yet-unnamed team.

From writer Tim Campbell in Toronto:

Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM and senior director of hockey operations Kevin Cheveldayoff is hot on the radar of Canada's seventh NHL franchise.

After a Thursday meeting with True North chairman Mark Chipman and hockey senior vice-president Craig Heisinger at the NHL's scouting combine, current Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley does not appear to be a slam-dunk to move with the club to Winnipeg. Nobody at True North will talk about it and there are strong rumblings here that Dudley will either be re-assigned or dismissed, that True North wants to go in another direction with its own people.

Again, Dudley could still be in the GM chair next season, but Cheveldayoff is a rising star in the executive suite. A former first-round pick of the New York Islanders in 1988, he won seven championships in the front office, including four with the AHL Chicago Wolves and the Stanley Cup with the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.

After being hired by the Blackhawks in 2009, he was Chicago GM Stan Bowman's cap guy, according to this profile from the Blackhawks:

"From the moment Kevin sat across me in that chair, I was comfortable with him," recalls Bowman. "It made naming someone to a very important position a very easy decision. He's got an unparalleled work ethic, he cares about people, and he's sincere about everything he does."

If Cheveldayoff gets this Winnipeg gig, there are a few extra levels of cruel hockey irony for the Thrashers and Dudley. The Wolves were Atlanta's AHL affiliate; and when he was hired by the Blackhawks in 2009 as assistant GM, he was basically replacing the team's former assistant GM, who stepped down earlier that year — Rick Dudley, who left weeks before his friend Dale Tallon was fired.

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