Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets talk but make no deals at deadline

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MONTREAL -- It's inactivity disguised as a vote of confidence. And it comes at a most-peculiar time -- with the Winnipeg Jets in a four-game losing streak and battling both fatigue and a growing infirmary.

The NHL trade deadline came and went Wednesday with the Jets not making any deals, other than to claim Mike Santorelli off waivers from the Florida Panthers, shipping Patrice Cormier to the St. John's IceCaps and recalling Aaron Gagnon.

Now, it's not that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his management team weren't trying to jazz up their roster -- the most-discussed rumour had them in discussions with the Buffalo Sabres for Drew Stafford -- it's just that the asking prices were too steep.

"There are some teams that are in their cycle where they feel they have to win right now, feel they have what it takes to win right now and are willing to do whatever it takes to win right now," said Cheveldayoff in a conference call from Uniondale, N.Y., where he and his scouts remained for the deadline. "At some point in time that's obviously our goal, to be one of those teams that feel they are one piece away from being a Stanley Cup contender."

The move to land Santorelli, a 27-year-old forward from Vancouver who once played junior B hockey with Jets captain Andrew Ladd, fills a hole left by the loss of Nik Antropov, who will be out for two weeks with a lower-body injury. A former 20-goal scorer who was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators, Santorelli will be in the lineup tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I'm super excited," said Santorelli in a phone interview. "The Jets have a great team and it's that time of the year when you're right in the mix of things and I'm looking forward to coming there as much as I can. Each game is so meaningful and that's exciting.

"I like to play a high-tempo speed game and get pucks to the net. I think a change of scenery can be good for players. I'll come there and work hard and try to bring it every night."

The recall of Gagnon comes just days after he was named the American Hockey League's player of the month for March and cost Cormier his spot with the big club. As well, James Wright is close to coming off the injured-reserve list, but is unlikely to suit up against the Habs.

The Jets had a number of players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer, key among them Antropov, Ron Hainsey, Kyle Wellwood and Grant Clitsome. But after not being able to pull the trigger on a deal, Cheveldayoff also said the lack of moves should send a message to the men in the room: management still has faith they can hang on to top spot in the Southeast Division and secure a playoff spot.

"This group of players, although we're on a streak that we don't like right now, they earned the opportunity," said Cheveldayoff. "They got us to this point. I looked at it and said if I did do something and moved one of them out or did something to take away without adding something right now... I just didn't feel that was the right message to send to this group that had earned this."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2013 D1

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