The Phoenix Coyotes have sent forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Rostislav Klesla and minor-league forward Dane Byers.
Phoenix GM Don Maloney was looking to upgrade his defense and get some depth with the uncertainty surrounding Ed Jovanovski's return from orbital bone surgery. Jovanovski could be out for the rest of the regular season.
Klesla has 10 points in 45 games this season, but he's been out since Jan. 22 with a bothersome knee injury. He had joined the Blue Jackets on their current road trip.
Klesla was the first draft pick in Blue Jackets' franchise history (No. 4 in 2000) and has spent his entire career in Columbus, playing 515 games dating back to his debut in the 2000-01 season. He is signed through the 2013-14 season.
The Blue Jackets got an upgrade in offense with Upshall, who had 16 goals and 11 assists in 61 games for the Coyotes this season. He'll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Lepisto, who is due to be a restricted free agent, had 11 points in 51 games.
Upshall has also played for Nashville and Philadelphia. He has 165 points in 340 games.
"Scottie will bring hopefully a little bit of scoring and speed to our lineup," Howson told NHL Live! "He's a tenacious player and hopefully he can give us a jolt down the stretch. I think Sami is a bit of an underrated performer. He moves the puck well and will play a bit on the power play. I think both players will fit into what we're trying to accomplish."
The Coyotes, with 76 points, are fourth in the Western Conference but the Blue Jackets are 12th with 68 points despite eight wins in their last 11 games. Howson said it will be difficult to make the playoffs, but hopes the added burst the team should get from Upshall will help.
"I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff and players. They really bought into what we're trying to do here," Howson said. "We've been on a good run. It's going to be hard to make the playoffs. Hopefully we can rattle off some more wins but it's going to be tough."
Klesla's problems in his career have been injuries. He was limited to only 60 games over the previous two seasons and has missed 16 games this season. He has 133 points in his career.
Howson said it was difficult to trade him because he was an original Blue Jacket.
"He has been here a long time. He's been a good person, a good player here and very good in the community. It was a difficult decision to move on from Rusty."