Scott Howson has made it clear in recent weeks: the Blue Jackets organization is leaving no stone unturned as they move forward and reshape the roster.
It’s a process that contains multiple steps – some larger-scale than others – but each stop along the way is no more important than the other. Howson believes the portion that was completed today at the NHL’s trading deadline puts one foot forward in the right direction, clearing salary cap space and acquiring draft picks that give the Blue Jackets options as they approach the Entry Draft this summer.
Beginning with last week’s trade of Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes and sending Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings, Howson and the Blue Jackets have accumulated the following: an additional first-round draft pick (conditional based on the Kings’ playoff fate), an additional second-round draft pick, two additional fourth-round draft picks, a fifth-round draft pick and a top-four defenseman in Jack Johnson.
The most recent trade came this afternoon, as center Samuel Pahlsson was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the pair of aforementioned fourth-round picks and minor-league defenseman Taylor Ellington.
“We believe we’re in a stronger position today to move the club forward,” Howson said. “We’re committed to a competitive culture and a high standard of expectation for everyone in our organization. Sammy was a very good player here. I think he’s going to do an outstanding job in Vancouver. He’s got Stanley Cup experience.
“He’s a very quiet veteran, but he provides calmness - and provided a calmness for our team. I expect he’ll do that in Vancouver. That’s going to be a loss for us, but we’ll get through this without him and it will give other people an opportunity to play his role.”
Rick Nash’s situation has been widely reported and speculated on in the last month, but Howson stated that the consideration of trading the Blue Jackets captain was initiated by the player. Once the hockey operations staff had time to digest the request and develop a plan moving forward, they decided the price to acquire Nash would be high.
A deal was not consummated by the 3 p.m. EST deadline on Monday, but that will not deter Howson from re-examining the marketplace in the offseason.
“He approached us and asked us to consider trading him,” Howson said. “We agreed to accommodate his request as long as we could get a deal that would provide us with cornerstone pieces that would help us compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the coming year. It did not happen by 3 o’clock today.
“This is too important to our franchise and our fans to do a deal that was not in our best interest. We pursued a number of options, but none provided the value back that we could justify trading a player of Rick’s caliber. As we’ve said before, we will continue to keep all of our options open to improving our hockey club in the coming months. We’re excited about what lies ahead.”
Craig Patrick, the club’s senior advisor to hockey operations, has 23 years of experience as a coach and general manager in the NHL. He has led several re-shaping efforts in both New York and Pittsburgh, and said that building teams is based on acquiring quality assets.
They would not fluctuate on their asking price and that was consistent from the start.
“With this being my 24th trade deadline, I think I was the voice of reason,” Patrick said. “We were pretty certain we were going to get what we wanted, or else we weren’t going to trade him. And we stuck to that through the whole thing.”
At the root of the discussions was one thing: acquiring significant pieces in return that would become the foundation for the franchise not just now, but years into the future. The reshaping of the hockey club is an ongoing effort, and one that is only getting started.
“We had significant discussions today but it didn’t happen,” Howson said. “We think we have a lot to offer here in Columbus. The first thing we have to do is have a winning culture to attract free agents.
“The price was high (for Nash) and I don’t apologize for that. It had to be high.”
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