COLUMBUS, Ohio -- July 23, 2012 ended up being a rather significant day for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In a trade which involved seven total pieces and five bodies, they swung a deal with the New York Rangers to acquire forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, highly-touted defense prospect Tim Erixon, and a 2013 first-round pick.
The Blue Jackets get exactly what they were looking for: more NHL forwards to boost their offense and balance the attack for head coach Todd Richards.
From the Columbus end, GM Scott Howson sent Rick Nash, minor-league defenseman Steve Delisle and a conditional third-round draft pick (2013) to the Big Apple to complete the trade. The conditional pick will be returned to the Blue Jackets should the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.
This is by far the biggest deal of the summer around the NHL, and until consummated this afternoon, was one of the most heavily-rumored and discussed transactions in recent memory.
"I'd like to thank Rick Nash for all he's done for the Columbus Blue Jackets," Howson said. "He's been a great player for us, a wonderful ambassador for our city, and has been generous with his time and resources in giving back to our community.
"But we're moving on now, and we're excited about future. We want a team that will compete every night, play an exciting brand of hockey and is committed to excellence. Today's trade brings us the right balance we were seeking in any trade for Rick."
Dubinsky, 26, has been a quietly productive two-way forward during his career with the Rangers. The native of Anchorage, Alaska broke into the NHL in 2007 on a full-time basis and immediately grabbed a spot among the Rangers’ top-six forwards. He put up 14 goals and 40 points during his rookie campaign, and added eight points (four goals, four assists) in 10 playoff contests.
After a couple of up-and-down years, Dubinsky had his best season in 2010-11, seeing regular top-line time (as well as the No. 1 power-play unit) and scored a career-high 24 goals. He’s known as a player that skates well, has underrated skills with the puck and can play in all situations.
"He impressed me," Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said. "I think the way he skates, the way he works...there's some grit to his game and skill to go with it. One area that we had to get better in was down the middle. We added two guys with some size and some speed.
"The players we added are a reason for us to be excited. Strength down the middle is a great way to build your team."
Anisimov is another emerging forward that has exceled at both ends of the rink, and many scouts and hockey types think there’s more offense to come. He just completed his third NHL season in 2011-12 and had his second-highest output to date: 16 goals, 20 assists and 36 total points while carrying a +12 rating in 79 games.
He logged important minutes on the power play and penalty-killing units of the Rangers, and earned the trust of head coach John Tortorella to be out there in the “winning time” situations.
"He's really big, strong, a good skater," Richards said of Anisimov. "What's got me real intrigued is his size; he's a guy that can move out on the ice well. That's one thing I've learned -- you look at a team like the Los Angeles Kings that won this year -- they were big. It makes you difficult to defend."
Richards was also encouraged by the friendship Anisimov has with current Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin. They are fellow Russian countrymen and played together in New York before Tyutin was traded to Columbus in the summer of 2008.
Erixon is just 21 years old and widely considered to be one of, if not the best, defense prospects not currently playing in the NHL. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus and ESPN.com believes Erixon is near the top of the Blue Jackets' prospect depth chart, joined by recently-drafted Ryan Murray. Originally a first-round pick of the Calgary Flames (23rd overall) in 2009, Erixon was traded to New York on June 1, 2011 where he played the bulk of his games with the Connecticut Whale.
Erixon, born in New York and raised in Sweden, is believed to be “NHL-ready” by several talent evaluators but faces stiff competition on a bulked-up Columbus blue line.
"He adds to our growing list of top young defenseman," Howson said. "We expect him to challenge for a roster spot next year. We believe defense is the strongest part of our team, and it just got stronger."