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Blue Jackets add experience to young team

GM Jarmo Kekalainen hoping additions will provide leadership in postseason

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets were in a position, in the NHL standings and in terms of prospects, that they could add depth and experience prior to the NHL Trade Deadline without disrupting the lineup.

Columbus on Wednesday traded Dalton Prout, an extra defenseman who played 15 games this season, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Kyle Quincey and sent minor league defenseman Dillon Heatherington to the Dallas Stars for forward Lauri Korpikoski.

The Blue Jackets are one of the youngest teams in the NHL, but Quincey, 31, has played 548 regular-season NHL games and 54 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Korpikoski, 30, has played 630 NHL games, including 30 postseason games.

"We have a lot of good prospects on our depth chart and that allowed us to do the trade for Korpikoski, and we're still in good shape," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

The Blue Jackets could afford to part with Prout, 26, because of the development of young defensemen such as Ryan Murray, 23, Seth Jones, 22, and rookies Markus Nutivaara, 22, and Zach Werenski, 19. Heatherington, 21, was unable to crack the Blue Jackets lineup and has spent this season with Cleveland of the American Hockey League.

Columbus (39-16-6, 84 points) is third in the NHL standings behind the Washington Capitals (91) and Minnesota Wild (88) and could qualify for the playoffs from the Eastern Conference for the first time in three seasons.

Video: Devils trade Quincey to Columbus for Prout

Kekalainen said there was never a consideration to trade young players or prospects to engage in a blockbuster trade.

"We believe in this group," he said. "This group has won enough games to be third in the National Hockey League in the standings and in a playoff position. We believe that our window is just opening, so we're not going to go out on the market and mortgage our future to try and make our chances better just for the spring and make it worse for the future."

"These deals made sense to strengthen our depth and get our team better, but we believe in the team in the room that got us here."

Kekalainensaid he feels the trades address questions about the Blue Jackets' lack of postseason experience and their depth in case of injuries. Korpikoski may fill an immediate role on the penalty kill with forward Matt Calvert out indefinitely with an oblique strain.

"We accomplished what we tried to accomplish," Kekalainen said. "We got some depth on both defense and the forward side.

"I know Korpikoski very well. He played on the World Cup team for Finland. [Coach] John Tortorella [was his coach with the New York Rangers in 2008-09]. He's a player who can play on the left side or right side. He has a lot of speed."

Quincey understands his role is to help the Blue Jackets handle the pressure down the stretch and into the postseason.

"I'm very excited to help whoever it is with the little details that make a difference," he said. "Those little things go a long way, especially in a playoff run. One little shift can make or break a series."

The Blue Jackets decided that a veteran backup goaltender was not needed to spell Sergei Bobrovsky during a stretch that includes 16 games in March, beginning with a home game against the Wild on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV).

Joonas Korpisalo, 22, has won the backup job over Anton Forsberg, 24, for now. Korpisalo is 5-1-0 with a 2.74 goals-against average this season and made 24 saves in a 7-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday in his most recent start.

Columbus has also gotten a boost with the recall of forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, 21, from Cleveland. He has two goals and two assists in his past six games for the Blue Jackets.

Kekalainen said Bjorkstrand's play has been like adding a player through a trade.

"We expected him to make the team out of training camp," he said. "He wasn't quite ready but he's showing what he can do."

The Blue Jackets are on the way to the best record in their history, but Kekalainen said discussions leading up to the trade deadline were about not being satisfied.

"When you're at 40 wins, you're going to earn respect, but you've got to keep earning it every day," he said.

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