McGreevy: Blue Jackets’ deadline still busy despite keeping Nash

http://www.flickr.com/photos/clydeorama/

Courtesy Clydorama/Flickr/CC Antoine Vermette was one of the key players moved by the Blue Jackets at this year's trade deadline. Here, he celebrates a goal against the Washington Capitals.

Columbus, Ohio – As the NHL trade deadline passed Monday afternoon, the Blue Jackets did not move their franchise player, Rick Nash. Instead, Columbus swapped Sammy Pahlsson for a pair of draft picks and a defenseman, then called it a day.

Leading up to the deadline, the Blue Jackets also dealt Jeff Carter and Antoine Vermette, and received two defenseman (most notably, Jack Johnson), one goalie, and “a lot of darts to throw at the board,” in the words of general manager Scott Howson.

The “darts” Howson was referring to are the five draft picks he acquired over the course of six days.  More importantly, they are the future of the organization starving for success.

With an increasingly impatient fan base and a captain who asked for a trade mid-January, Columbus’ front office made a definitive decision to start reshaping its team with an emphasis on the future.

Although the “nuclear” option to essentially wipe out the entire roster seemed plausible, Howson hopes his approach will yield long-term results.
The Blue Jackets’ plans to reshape their roster began with the freeing of cap space. First to leave was Vermette, whose departure leaves Columbus with an extra $3.75 million in cap space.

Next, the Carter deal liberated the Blue Jackets of a $5,272,727 cap hit, not to mention 11 years of regret.
Pahlsson, traded to Vancouver on the day of the deadline, had the smallest of the salaries with a still noteworthy $2.65 million cap hit.

Columbus freed a substantial amount of cap space over the span of two years, making breathing room for offseason. If the team does trade Nash in the future, its ability to employ players with higher salaries could be beneficial in landing another star in return.

The draft picks the Blue Jackets acquired could also be a trade asset in the offseason, though it appears Howson might be taking another direction.
Making a clear distinction between his plans to reshape the team and not to rebuild it, Howson could be hinting at an idea to build a younger core of players around the backbone of Columbus’ veteran leadership.

With a conditional first round pick from the Kings and a second round pick from the Coyotes in the 2012 Entry Draft, the Blue Jackets will hopefully be able to land an impact player capable of making an immediate difference.

Howson will be on the lookout for players of the same caliber as rookies Ryan Johansen and John Moore who have each played the entire season in the NHL.
As Nash’s tenure in Columbus seems to be drawing to a close, the team will rely on different players to mold the younger players.

Vinny Prospal, who recently signed a one-year contract extension, will be an experienced voice in the locker room. Other leaders might include forward R.J. Umberger and newly acquired defenseman Jack Johnson, who each have contracts through the next five seasons.
Before the trading frenzy, Nash voiced his displeasure with the direction the franchise had taken. He believed it would take five more years to build the Blue Jackets into a Stanley Cup contender.

Judging from the moves Howson made, it appears the winger was correct in his assumption. Unpicked players control the destiny of Columbus’ struggling franchise. Now, the job is waiting and trying to make a core around which the Blue Jackets can shape a team.

– Matthew McGreevy, Contributing Writer
(@mcmatthew4)

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