WINNIPEG – With a playoff spot in sight, Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff tinkered only slightly with his lineup Monday.
The Jets made just one deal prior to the 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline, sending defenceman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for two draft picks. The club also picked up blue-liner Grant Clitsome off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Being able to acquire a player like Grant gave us a tremendous amount more flexibility but we had other irons in the fire,” he said. “We wanted to try accomplish a couple of things heading into the deadline here: take care of ourselves right now and also be able to look toward the future and try and build.
“I’m very happy with the outcome here today.”
Oduya is in the final year of a contract that carries a US$3.5-million cap hit and is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“It’s tough when you see a player that leaves your organization, your family,” Cheveldayoff said. “I wish Johnny all the best and just can’t say enough about him as a person and his contributions to the organization.”
Chicago was anxious to add depth to its defence and sent a second- and third-round pick in 2013 to the Jets.
“The Chicago Blackhawks were very aggressive right from the onset that they wanted Johnny if he was going to be made available,” Cheveldayoff said.
Oduya joins his fourth NHL team. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 by the New Jersey Devils before making the move to Winnipeg.
The 30-year-old was surrounded by reporters at the morning skate Monday. Oduya’s name had been mentioned frequently in Jets trade talk.
Once the deal was done, Oduya told TSN it was exciting to go to Chicago but he was going to miss the energy and enthusiasm of the Winnipeg fans.
“You’re excited and a little bit let down at the same time,” he said.
Oduya had two goals and 11 assists with Winnipeg and a minus-nine rating. He spent four seasons with New Jersey before joining Atlanta.
The Jets had already filled the void created by Oduya’s departure earlier in the day by claiming Clitsome.
The 26-year-old carries a US$1.25-million cap hit through next season.
In 51 games with the Blue Jackets this year, Clitsome had four goals and 10 assists. A ninth-round draft pick by Columbus in 2004, Clitsome is looking forward to joining the Jets.
“It’ll be different for me,” he said. “I’ve never had that experience throughout my whole career.
“It’ll be a learning experience and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited. They’re in a playoff push and they’ve got a great team. It’s going to be exciting times.”
Jets coach Claude Noel remembers Clitsome from his days as an assistant coach in Columbus and the club’s interim head coach during the 2009-10 season.
“I liked what he brought to the table,” Noel said. “I didn’t have him for a long time but I liked him.
“He was a smart player. I thought he shoots the puck real well. He’s got good hockey intelligence.”
Cheveldayoff also said he was pleased to add Clitsome to his roster.
“We’re extremely excited about getting Grant into the organization. We’ve heard just some phenomenal things about his character . . . and I think he’ll fit in very, very nicely with what we’re trying to build here in Winnipeg,” he said.
Clitsome didn’t arrive in time to dress for Monday night’s game against Edmonton in Winnipeg.
“It’s a good thing for everybody,” Oduya said of the deal.
He had yet to talk to any of his now former teammates.
“Hopefully some of the guys will be sad to see me go but you never know,” he said.