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Pieces to the Puzzle

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

With a smile on his face and right hand extended, General Manager Scott Howson welcomed the two newest Blue Jackets to the family.

Both Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, acquired by the club in the NHL's offseason, were presented their uniforms in front of the local media and pulled no punches when stating their desire to swiftly turn their new team into a contender.

Carter, 26, and Wisniewski, 27, are each signed to long-term contracts and in their primes – an ideal situation for the Blue Jackets and the organization's goal to get back to the playoffs and cause a little more than a stir.

Photo Gallery of Carter and Wisniewski Press Conference
Watch the Entire Press Conference on Jackets TV

Throughout the press conference, neither player alluded to a sense of "starting over" but building a championship team that already has significant pieces in place.

"We've both seen ups and downs of locker rooms," Wisniewski said. "Obviously we're young guys, but we want to bring leadership as well.

"Winning is contagious. So if you can come in with the right attitude and bring it every game, hopefully people jump on board and we start turning things around."

For a player that spent his entire NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers – a team accustomed to postseason visits – Carter is eager to continue that trend in Columbus.

Winning teams have a bond of accountability and a plan, he said, and the Blue Jackets are on that path.

"If you have one guy off the ship it's not going to go right," Carter said. "You've got to have everyone on board every day when you come to practice, giving it their all to make the team better.

It's definitely tough when it's a work in progress, but when you have everyone on the same page, it usually works out good."

The summer has been a productive period for Howson and his hockey operations staff, who clearly outlined two major goals once the season concluded. Faced with acquiring a top-line center, something Howson said the team has sought for a long time, he was willing to put in the work to have detailed discussions with the Flyers and bring Carter to the Blue Jackets.

"If you look at all the top teams in the NHL - all the true contenders - they're strong down the middle," Howson said. "Whether it's Vancouver, Philadelphia, Chicago, they're all really good down the middle and we feel now with Jeff, with Antoine Vermette, Derick Brassard, and Sammy Pahlsson, Derek MacKenzie and with Ryan Johansen coming, we have a chance to be very strong down the middle.

"When (Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren) was ready to pull the trigger, we were only too happy to be there and meet the price and acquire Jeff."

Carter, known as a top-flight sniper in his own right, has no reservations about playing with Captain Rick Nash and sharing the puck.

"I don't think it should be too bad," Carter said with a smile. "I expect us to have the puck quite a bit. You can't score if you don't shoot it, so I think we'll figure things out. Rick's a great player, he has shown it for years and I look forward to playing with him."

Both players openly spoke of accepting the pressure associated with being prime acquisitions and being looked at as difference-makers, players counted on to help catapult a club that went into the offseason seeking help at two very key positions.

The graciously-honest Wisniewski, who has played a variety of roles throughout his career with Chicago, Anaheim, New York Islanders and Montreal, said he's looking forward to answering critics who feel he's a depth defenseman with a long-term contract.

In the end, the idea of being the missing piece helped them find Columbus.

"I don't want to be that guy where you're here and they need to go get somebody else," Wisniewski said.

"That was one of the biggest things coming into free agency - I wanted to come to a team that hopefully, I was the missing piece. And obviously give it my best and try and win games. That's we're paid to do, and that's what I'm coming here in the next season to do."

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