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Howson: Jackets may make more moves

Friday, 02.24.2012 / 12:05 AM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

Columbus general manager Scott Howson is not done remaking his team after Thursday night's blockbuster that netted him defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.

That means he would like to make a few more deals before Monday's Trade Deadline arrives at 3 p.m. ET

"I’ve been pretty clear about what I’m saying," Howson said minutes after announcing Thursday that he had traded center Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings. "We’re looking at every and all opportunities to improve this hockey team; but I’m not going to comment on any specific situation or specific player."

TRADE DEADLINE 2012

Jeff Carter

Kings trade for Jerr Carter

NHL.com
The Kings acquired three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter from the Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round selection in either the 2012 or 2013 NHL Draft. READ MORE ›
Howson, who moved Antoine Vermette to Phoenix on Wednesday in a deal that netted him a pair of draft picks and a minor-league goalie, still has assets to deal as he tries to pick up the pieces from a promising season that has gone horribly wrong.

Columbus entered the season with high expectations -- especially after the summer acquisitions of Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski -- but a horrendous start doomed the club to another season without an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 22 games remaining, Columbus has the League's worst record (18-35-7, 43 points) and sits 23 points out of a playoff spot.

As a result, Howson has committed himself to once again aggressively remaking his club. His first step is to acquire as many assets as possible before the trading window closes in less than 90 hours.

“I think I said it was the beginning of the reshaping of the team, which doesn’t necessarily mean rebuilding," Howson said. "I expect to be very busy here, very active. It’s going to be a very busy few days leading up to 3 p.m. Monday."

Moving Carter, who is owed $5.2 million a year for each of the next 10 years, also frees up a bit of salary-cap space, which will let Howson be even more creative in his discussions with the League's other GMs.

“This moves opens up a little bit of cap space," Howson said. "Antoine’s (trade) does too and we’ll see what transpires here over the next couple days. It does give added flexibility for reshaping where we want to go."

Howson has a significant list of needs, but he also has some significant assets to offer.

There is no question that Rick Nash, the franchise forward, is the crown jewel of those assets. Despite the trade of Carter, Nash appears to still be on the market.

Earlier this week, the asking price was a current roster player, prospects and draft picks, according to most reports. The Kings were believed to be a front-runner in the Nash sweepstakes, but are likely out of that derby after Thursday's deal for Carter. The San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs have interest, according to reports.

Most likely, Howson will be looking for help up front in any deals he makes in the next three days.

Howson says he likes his defense after the trade for Johnson, especially with Johnson and Wisniewski as the anchors, supplemented by Fedor Tyutin.

The Blue Jackets are thin at goal after the regression of Steve Mason during the past two seasons, but Howson said Thursday that he will not address the need for a franchise goalie right now. That, he says, will wait until the summer when he will have both the reopened trade market and free agency to find the best possible solution.

"We are not in the market for a starting goalie to finish the season," Howson said. "Our goaltending has to be better. We see some opportunities right now, if not in the offseason; but nothing right now. Quite frankly, Steve’s played well the last five or six games, and Curtis (Sanford) is healthy now, so they will help us down the stretch."

The one thing that is certain is that Howson is not going to let the fact that he missed mightily on the trade of Carter this summer -- Carter lasted just eight months with the franchise -- affect his ability to pull the trigger on more blockbusters before Monday's deadline.

“That’s the nature of pro sports," Howson said. "We all take our best shots, and we did our best work with that deal, and if things don’t work then you’ve got to move on, and you’ve got to move on quickly."

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory