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Oduya dealt for draft picks

Jets building for the future

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The Winnipeg Jets didn't swan dive into the National Hockey League trading deadline with a headline-grabbing blockbuster deal.

In fact, their handiwork Monday -- sending Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for second- and third-round draft picks in 2013 and claiming defenceman Grant Clitsome off waivers -- barely registered a ripple across the NHL.

Ultimately, it's what the club didn't do that may very well have a tidal wave-type impact in the Jets dressing room. Yes, by not overhauling a squad that had gone 4-0-2 in its last six prior to the deadline, management sent a very clear and concise message to the men who have worn Jets colours since October: They believe this crew can finish its push to a playoff berth and, if the stars align right, into the post-season.

"These guys here, they've played very, very well and very, very hard down the stretch," said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't more opportunity to maybe make some deals, but at the end of the day this was something we felt comfortable doing and we certainly felt comfortable moving forward with the group of guys that we have.

"The fan in me has enjoyed watching these guys play as well. It is an exciting time for this franchise to be in this race that we're in."

In effect, what the Jets did on Monday was an attempt to satisfy two camps: Dealing Oduya for draft picks should appease those that want to see the club stick by its build-through-the-draft blueprint and, at the same time, by not making a massive overhaul the organization clearly isn't giving up on the 2011-12 season.

That said, there are those who will argue that with the decision to not go all in with a commitment in either direction -- by picking up more scoring help for right now or dealing more of the players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer -- the Jets played it much too safe on trade-deadline day.

"We had a lot of irons in the fire, but if you look at some of the deals that moved and some of the pieces that were in play we probably were not in the same ballpark as some of the deals that did happen," Cheveldayoff said. "We might have been in the ballpark in a couple of deals that actually never came to fruition.

"... We wanted to try and accomplish a couple of things heading into the deadline here: take care of ourselves right now and also be able to look towards the future and try and build. We're very happy with the outcome here today. It's tough when you see a player leave your organization, your family, but I wish Johnny all the best. I can't say enough about him as a person and his contributions to the organization."

In the end what the Jets did was move the 30-year-old Oduya, in the last year of a three-year deal that pays him $3.5 million per annum, for a younger, cheaper prospect the organization believes still has upside. Clitsome, 26, has one more year left on a deal that pays him $1.25 million and had four goals and 10 assists in 51 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets this year.

Clistome played for Jets head coach Claude Noel in Columbus.

"I'm solid defensively and I like to chip in offensively once in a while," said Clitsome in a telephone interview. "I take a lot of pride in trying to play a well-rounded game.

"When I found out it was the Jets, I was thrilled. I'm so excited to get there. I was fortunate enough to be able to play there in the first game back in the exhibition and it was absolutely crazy then so I can only imagine what it's like now. I'm really excited about getting the opportunity to play for a team making a playoff push and would love to be a part of a playoff game there."

Clitsome was solid a year ago, picking up 19 points in 31 games with the Blue Jackets after being called up from Springfield, but his numbers were down this year. But the Jets did their homework on him before putting in the waiver claim and like his character and skill set.

"I like him," 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."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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