MONTREAL — With all due respect to Mike Santorelli and Aaron Gagnon, it was a pretty quiet day for the Winnipeg Jets.
As the national networks worked to tap-dance on live TV as they waited for a flurry of trades that took a while before eventually developing, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff essentially chose to stand pat on Wednesday before the deadline passed at 2 p.m. CT.
The Jets did make several roster moves, claiming Santorelli from the Florida Panthers to help offset the loss of C Nik Antropov (out two weeks with a lower-body injury) and calling up Gagnon from the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
Gagnon, who was named AHL player of the month on Monday after putting together an 11-game point streak (nine goals, 18 points), is getting his first shot of the season, while Patrice Cormier is going back to St. John’s after going without a point in 10 NHL games.
“(Santorelli) is someone that has scored 20 goals in the NHL in the past. Again, he has not had that type of success since then, but again it’s an opportunity with (Antropov) going down with an injury, we didn’t know how the day was going to unfold with other opportunities that may or may not have presented themselves. But being able to acquire them on waivers without giving up an asset, it’s an opportunity that allows us to add some depth,” Cheveldayoff said during a conference call. “Mike is someone who is excited. He’s a (pending) UFA himself, he obviously has something to prove moving toward the future. Claude had some history with him with the Nashville organization in the past and hopefully it’s something that will add a little bit of fire into the lineup.”
I was among the reporters who was able to speak with Santorelli from Florida after he found out about the deal and indeed, he was excited about the fresh start and an opportunity to go from a team that was out of it, to a club battling for a playoff spot and division title.
Santorelli, a 27-year-old centre, has two goals and one assist in 24 games with the Panthers this season but is only two seasons removed from posting career highs in goals (20) and points (41).
“Practice was just winding down, I got pulled over and that’s how I found out,” Santorelli said in a telephone interview from Florida as he was gathering his belongings. “I’m super excited. The Jets have a great team and it’s a fun time of the year when you’re right in the mix of things. I’m looking forward to coming in here and helping as much as I can.”
Santorelli is scheduled to arrive in Montreal on Wednesday night and is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens as the Jets try to snap a four-game losing skid.
“It’s an exciting situation, every game is so meaningful,” said Santorelli. “A change of scenery is good for players. I’m going to come in, work hard and bring it every night.”
Back to the relative inactivity for the Jets, which caused plenty of folks to vent their frustration on Twitter and other social media outlets.
Cheveldayoff calmly responded this way when the subject was broached:
“Everything comes at a price and at some point and time, we hopefully will be the people, the one’s that will be able to pay the prices and pay whatever is necessary to get that piece to win the (Stanley) Cup,” he said. “There’s no guarantees. You’ve seen a lot of different teams today and over the course of three, four days, that make moves. You talk about the balance of power and at the end of the day, one team is going to win. There’s lots of different things people have done that may or may not work.
“We need to build assets within our organization and we are going to work hard to build long-term assets.”
When you boil it all down, the Jets are choosing to stay with their long-term plan.
“You’d love to find something that might be that quick fix where you look at it and say, you know what, it’s worth it,” said Cheveldayoff. “But again, you sit there, you analyze it and look at it and a lot of different things come into play. If we were in a position where these assets would definitely make the difference in us ultimately competing legitimately for the Stanley Cup at this point and time, we certainly would have looked at it.
“For us right now, we know what we are. We’re a team that is fighting right now to try and get into the playoffs, to gain that experience, to get that taste of what it’s like. And hey, when you get in, you never know what might happen. But you have to be realistic along the way, or else you’re going to be spending years and years and years chasing that elusive formula.”
Nobody was expecting the Jets to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal, but I was a bit surprised they weren’t able to bring in a forward to help upgrade the second line.
As is often the case on deadline day, it appears the price for most attractive players was simply too high and the Jets don’t have an abundance of NHL-ready prospects in the system, at least not guys they’d be willing to move at this time.
Right-winger and former UND Fighting Sioux sniper Drew Stafford of the Buffalo Sabres was a name that was linked to the Jets at various points on Wednesday, but you can’t blame Cheveldayoff if he was being asked to give up a first round pick as part of the package.
Alex Burmistrov was a name that was apparently attracting some interest from teams around the NHL, but he will remain in the fold, as will D-man Ron Hainsey and the other seven pending UFAs.
Many folks didn’t agree with my opinion that the Jets should hang on to Hainsey and perhaps try to get him to agree to an extension of 2-to-3 years before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Who knows if that will happen, but he’ll remain in the mix at least for the final 10 games of the regular season as the Jets attempt to qualify for the post-season party.
Since it was a scheduled day off (under the new CBA), there was no reaction from Jets players to what went down on Wednesday but we’ll get some at the morning skate on Thursday.
The Jets face the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre Thursday and they’ll attempt to snap a four-game losing skid.
On Wednesday morning, 2012 Jets first rounder D Jacob Trouba talked about turning pro and what he’s looking forward to doing after arriving in Winnipeg on Thursday.
Here’s a look at some of Trouba’s responses from today’s conference call:
What made the timing right to turn pro?
“It’s tough walking away from Michigan. I had a great time this year. Education’s still important to me. I want to graduate one day and take summer classes. I just feel like I was ready for this. This is a goal of mine and a dream come true. I just felt like it was the right time.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, playing against bigger guys. But it’s something I need. I’m not going to get any better if I’m not challenging myself. My goal is to play in the NHL. I’m ready to take that challenge.
“I didn’t really worry about it during the year. After the season I thought it over with my family and my coaches, and we decided to make the best decision. My heart wanted to go to Winnipeg and that’s what I decided to do.”
What will be the biggest adjustment?
“I don’t really know yet. But I definitely think bigger players that are more skilled, faster, and just better hockey. It’s quicker. Got to make decisions faster. Everything’s a little bit better. That’s going to take some adjusting. And then off the ice is going to be an adjustment as well. That comes with being a prof athlete. It’s something I’m ready for.”
Did his success at world juniors change his thinking? Not really.
“We got pretty lucky that tournament. Everything kind of fell right for us. Playing against those guys, the best under -20 years olds in the world. Seeing how you compare to them and then going back and playing college against older guys, and seeing how I compare physically to them, it’s tough to really emulate what the NHL’s going to be.”
What will Trouba miss about school?
“It’s been a great experience here, on and off the ice. Being part of this university is pretty cool. It’s a pretty special place. But it’s a goal of mine to play in the NHL. I want to attain it.”
What areas of Trouba’s game have improved most since he was drafted?
“Probably D-zone coverage. The offensive side of my game has improved this year a little bit, with just being a little more free to go up in the rush, learning more about when to join the rush. Everything’s been improving, but that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Cheveldayoff said there were no expectations for Trouba, but I asked him what he expected of himself?
“Most importantly, I want to learn as much as I can, with being around the Jets. Trying to soak up as much info as I can about what it’s about, what it takes to play there, and what I need to do this summer to really put myself in a position to be with the Jets next year.
“I’m flying in tomorrow afternoon, and that’s really all I know right now. That’s not up to me. That’s up to the coaches. I’m just going to work as hard as I can…. whatever happens, happens. I don’t know. I haven’t been there, yet. I have to get a feel for things first before I decide that.”
Back to the NHL trade deadline talk, what moves caught your attention and what do you like about them?
I’ll look deeper into this subject tomorrow as well, but I’m operating on roughly 90 minutes of sleep and had a 2:50 am wake-up call this morning so I could get hurry to Montreal, to ensure I didn’t miss anything.
It was a fun day trying to keep up with the rumours and the actual deals, but now the focus shifts back to the stretch drive, which should be very interesting.
We’ve got another expansive package in the Winnipeg Sun and online at www.winnipegsun.com, breaking down the deadline day and talking about why the Jets should move Dustin Byfuglien to right wing, at least for the time being.
Columnist Paul Friesen handled the Trouba story and got some valuable insight from Michigan Wolverines head coach Red Berenson.
Talk to you from Bell Centre in the a.m.