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Jets retool defense, but ultimately happy with roster

by Patrick Williams /
WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets management team spent their first NHL trade deadline retooling the club's blue line.

The Jets shipped out veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, to the Chicago Blackhawks for second- and third-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft. The 30-year-old Oduya played in the Jets' top-six after a shaky start, registered 2 goals and 13 points in 62 games.

To fill Oduya's spot on the blue line, the Jets went to the NHL waiver wire again and added defenseman Grant Clitsome from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Clitsome, 26, played 51 games with the Blue Jackets this season and put up 4 goals and 14 points.

The Jets did not make Oduya available to the media, and Clitsome is not scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg until Tuesday. But general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff spoke to reporters about his first NHL trade deadline experience.

"We're happy with the outcome today," Cheveldayoff said. "Certainly it's tough when you see a player who leaves your organization, your family, but I wish Johnny the best. I just can't say enough about him as a person and his contributions to the organization."

Cheveldayoff indicated the Blackhawks were very aggressive in pursuing Oduya, and the pursuit had lasted weeks. Cheveldayoff consummated the deal with Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, whom he served under as an assistant general manager with the Blackhawks before being hired in Winnipeg.

"We had a lot of very blunt conversations with each other that ultimately led to the deal," Cheveldayoff said of negotiations with Bowman.

Cheveldayoff added that claiming Clitsome provided him with some degree of comfort in moving out Oduya, especially given Clitsome is signed through the 2012-2013 season. Jets coach Claude Noel and Clitsome were together in the Columbus organization for parts of three seasons.

"He's a very competitive player, a player that has great character," Cheveldayoff said of Clitsome. "With young defensemen, you know that it takes them time to mature. We're extremely excited about getting Grant into the organization. I think he'll fit in very, very nicely with what we're trying to build in Winnipeg."

While the Jets find themselves in a playoff race, Cheveldayoff has stuck to the organization's philosophy of laying a foundation for the future and building depth across the organization. Jets players had also stated they wanted to see the roster remain intact, and backed up their wish by running off a 4-1-1 streak prior to the trade deadline.

"Message received," Cheveldayoff said, "in the sense that the fan in me has enjoyed watching these guys play as well. I think that we added a piece to our puzzle that will help us now and into the future. We certainly felt very comfortable moving forward with the group of guys that we have."
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