The Winnipeg Jets have bolstered their defensive depth by plucking Grant Clitsome off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Clitsome likely won’t be in the lineup Monday night as the Jets face the Edmonton Oilers at the MTS Centre, but his addition does create a buzz as the NHL trade deadline (2 p.m.) approaches. Jets management has long been of the belief you can never have too much defensive depth in the organization, but it does also fuel speculation that veteran Johnny Oduya could be moved today.
"My philosophy is pretty much like the rest of our organization: you can never have enough defencemen," said head coach Claude Noel after Monday’s morning skate. "You can never have enough. We went through it last year (with the Manitoba Moose), we went through at the start of this year when we went through 12 Ds. He’s another defenceman who looks like he can play in the league. He becomes another part back there and we’ll figure out how to manage it."
Clitsome, who turns 27 in April, played in 51 games with the Blue Jackets this year, picking up four goals and and 10 assists. He is reunited with Noel, who was an assistant and the head coach with the Blue Jackets when Clitsome first arrived in the NHL.
Said Clitsome to David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail: "Kind of bittersweet. Organization put lot of time in developing me. I'm excited because they're in playoff push. Claude's a character guy."
Clitsome has appeared in 93 NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets.
"I like him. I didn’t have him for a long time," said Noel. "He’s a smart player, he shoots the puck real well, he’s got good hockey intelligence, moves the puck tape to tape, understands how to play, he’s reliable defensively. He’s a 5-11 defenceman, but to me he looked like a player that was able to play in the league. After I left he’s played more, he’s played power play. From what I remember of him, I liked him."
Noel said one of the most-difficult aspects of NHL trade deadline – especially when the Jets play a few hours later – is keeping the players focused.
"It’s a really hard day today and I think the players are probably downplaying it somewhat," he said. "You don’t know if you’re going to lose a teammate, gain a teammate… does he fit , what happens to the person if he does go? It’s not an easy day to manage. Your routines wouldn’t be disturbed, but certainly your focus is… you’re not sure what’s what. By 2 o’clock you’re trying to sort out, ‘What have we done here? Have we done anything? Have we helped ourselves, have we not?’ It’s a tough day for players for a lot of different reasons."
Meanwhile, defenceman Zach Bogosian did resume practising with the Jets this morning. His status for Monday’s tilt against the Oilers will be a game-time decision.