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Trade Coverage

Letestu traded to Blue Jackets after being sent to Predators from Oilers

Columbus moves fourth-round pick to Nashville; Aberg dealt to Edmonton

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Mark Letestu was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets by the Nashville Predators for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on Sunday. The 33-year-old center earlier had been traded to the Predators by the Edmonton Oilers for forward Pontus Aberg.

Letestu has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 60 games this season. He has 206 points (92 goals, 114 assists) in 538 regular-season games during nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Blue Jackets and Oilers.

Letestu played four seasons for Columbus from 2011-15. He had 98 points (43 goals, 55 assists) and 36 penalty minutes in 233 games.

Video: Discussing the Mark Letestu trade

It was there where he and his wife Brett grew to appreciate the city; they purchased a home there last summer to live in the offseason and after he retired. That's why the conversation he had with her Sunday was so much better than the one after the 2014-15 season, when he told her the Blue Jackets were not going to re-sign him. He signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Oilers.

"To leave the first time, I know it was particularly heartbreaking for me family," Letestu said. "It was a tough couple of days for my wife. I know the phone call I got to make to her today was one of the happier ones I got to deliver.

"We're really excited as a family to be coming back to the area, to somewhere where we feel very comfortable and somewhere we do call home."

Columbus (31-26-5) is one of the younger teams in the NHL and holds the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 67 points, five points behind the New Jersey Devils.

"Being a little older, they have a young group there, adding a little leadership and experience in those situations can help the room," Letestu said.

Letestu is expected to shore up the fourth line and play on special teams.

"He's a penalty killer, a face-off guy, good in shootouts," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "He's a center iceman that may solidify a little bit of our center ice situation."

Letestu can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made no promises to Letestu beyond this season.

"We know him pretty well. This will give us a good chance to see how we fits in today and in future plans," Kekalainen said. "The focus is right now is to make the playoffs this year and we'll worry about the future after that."

Letestu said he will arrive in Columbus on Sunday from Anaheim, where the Oilers were preparing to play the Anaheim Ducks. Visa issues may prevent him from playing against the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena on Monday. The Blue Jackets' next game is Friday at the Los Angeles Kings.

Video: EDM@CBJ: Letestu slips puck past Bobrovsky for SHG

"He brought a ton to our team, more than can be evaluated just with his on-ice performance and his statistical measurements," Oilers coach Todd MacLellan said of Letestu. "He was tremendous in the locker room. Very, very well respected by his teammates, more than you can imagine, so we'll miss that part of it. Certainly a utility-type of player, penalty killing, power play, can control the fourth line.

"He had a pretty good year and a half, went a little bit dry for us lately, but I know he'll be a good asset for Columbus now that he's there."

Aberg, 24, has eight points (two goals, six assists) in 37 games for the Predators this season. Selected by Nashville in the second round (No. 37) of the 2012 NHL Draft, he has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 52 NHL games.

He had five points (two goals, three assists) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season to help Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Aberg can become a restricted free agent after the 2019-20 season.

"We're going to give him an opportunity to play with good players," MacLellan said. "Our lineup is full of good players, but [we'll] play him in a situation where we think he can succeed. We believe he's got some offensive talent and some pretty good instincts. Does that warrant power-play time? We've got to figure that out. Where is he the most effective and who will he be effective with? That'll take some time to figure out."

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