Jets dump Oduya, claim Clitsome
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - As the NHL trade deadline came and went, the Winnipeg Jets believe they were able to get better in both the short term and the long term.
In his first deadline as an NHL general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff traded defenceman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for second and third round picks in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, while claiming blue-liner Grant Clitsome off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Oduya, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent and it was unlikely he was going to re-sign with the Jets, but Clitsome, 26, is under contract at a salary-cap hit of $1.25 million per season through the 2012-13 season.
“My goal was to set out to be a buyer and everybody looked at me kind of funny and said if you trade a UFA and just get picks, how can you be a buyer?” said Cheveldayoff. “But we accomplished our goals by getting Grant and by acquiring picks for the future.”
Clitsome was a guy the Jets began to target after their mid-season pro scouting meetings and he was placed on waivers on Saturday — leaving the Jets with an opportunity to strike without giving up an asset in return.
“He’s a player that kind of burst onto the scene as a late bloomer, in some respects,” said Cheveldayoff. “He’s a player that has great character. The research we’ve done behind the scenes, with respect to him as a teammate and him as a competitor fits the criteria that we want in a player moving forward.”
Clitsome admits the past 48 hours were a strange time.
“It was a really weird feeling actually, my first time on waivers,” Clitsome said via telephone from Ohio. “You’re part of a team, but kind of in limbo. You don’t know if you’re going to be claimed or not or who is going to claim you. I really didn’t know what to expect and that was the most difficult part. I’m really excited by the way things worked out.
“To be picked up by the Jets is awesome. I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier.”
Clitsome had a chance to experience the atmosphere inside MTS Centre when he suited up in the first Jets’ exhibition game and he’s eager to join a team in the heat of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
“The atmosphere was pretty electric, I can’t imagine what a regular season game would be like,” said Clitsome, who has four goals and 14 points in 51 games this season. “I’m really pumped about that. Playoffs are the most fun hockey to play. To part of that playoff push is going to be a lot of fun.”
Since he had already left the rink before the deal was done, Oduya didn’t address the Winnipeg media but did hold a conference call with Blackhawks beat writers Monday afternoon.
“Any time you’re in a position where you’re battling for a whole year, obviously you don’t want to leave your teammates or friends behind,” said Oduya. “There’s excitement getting to Chicago, a Cup contender every year, really good team. It’s a great place to play, great city, good hockey town.”