Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg no longer saddled with Poni

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WINNIPEG Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled the trigger on two separate, but related deals on Wednesday that brought Eric Tangradi here and sent Alex Ponikarovsky down the highway.

What won't show up on the daily transaction wire is how those moves could also be seen as the boss firing a warning shot through the club's dressing room.

First, in studying the two transactions it's easy to see why the Jets wanted to move the 32-year-old Ponikarovsky -- who had two goals this year but had been mostly invisible -- while bringing in a power forward still with some upside.

"(Tangradi) is 24 years old and we're very hopeful that he's someone that, given an opportunity to play in our organization, is going to blossom," said Cheveldayoff in a conference call Wednesday night. "It was really more about creating an opening and opportunity for Eric as opposed to anything with Alexei."

Still, when the Jets signed Ponikarovsky as a free agent last summer they had hopes his size and productivity -- the 6-4, 225-pounder averaged better than 20 goals during a five-year stretch from 2005-06 to 2009-10 -- would give the Jets some punch up front.

And after 12 games they had seen enough, shipping him back to New Jersey for a seventh-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2014. Asked if he would call the Ponikarovsky signing a free-agent swing and a miss, Cheveldayoff said:

"If you're worried about taking swings and missing, you're not going to get up to the plate. You have to try and do some things... Free agency is a time where you look at what's available, you try and fit some needs and some of them fit and some of them don't."

While Cheveldayoff wouldn't buy into the suggestion the moves are his way of sending a message to a squad that is not getting -- to borrow Claude Noel's phrase -- "A" games from "A" players, there's no question Wednesday's handiwork could rattle some cages in the room.

"No one should be sitting here on my team thinking, 'Oh my goodness, I'm the next guy to go,' " Cheveldayoff said. "But by the same token they should all be sitting there thinking, 'This organization wants to continue to get better and try and make steps to do that.'

"We have to find our way a little bit. It's a very inconsistent group. Through the draft process we hope we'll continue to develop our organization, but if we can accelerate the process at any step -- be it a small step or a large step -- we're going to look at that."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 D1

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