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Columbus deals for Torres, signs Commodore @NHLdotcom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Seeking to add experience to one of the NHL's youngest rosters, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired winger Raffi Torres from the Edmonton Oilers for promising center Gilbert Brule on Tuesday.

"It's time to open up the next chapter in my life," a happy Torres said by telephone.

With money to spend on veteran free agents, the Blue Jackets also filled a huge hole with the signing of defenseman Mike Commodore, a 6-foot-5, 228-pounder who provides a hulking presence on the blue line that they have been missing.

Torres, 26, gives the Blue Jackets a skilled hand who has three full seasons and parts of three others in the league. He missed most of last season after knee surgery and is still rehabbing the injury.

The Blue Jackets have lost 30-something veterans Sergei Fedorov, Adam Foote and Jody Shelley through trades and are not planning on re-signing David Vyborny, the franchise leader in points and games played. That leaves a sizable gap in experience for a team with a 24-year-old captain (Rick Nash) and a roster made up of players who would have trouble growing playoff beards - if they ever had a chance.

The Blue Jackets are the only NHL team to have never made it to the postseason. Torres said he welcomes the chance to show Columbus fans what playoff hockey is all about.

"It's a different view of the NHL when you get to that second season," he said. "It's lots of fun and a totally different game. One thing I want to really do is get back in the playoffs."

Columbus general manager Scott Howson knew his club needed to get older, wiser and more mature.

"Raffi Torres is an experienced NHL player who combines a physical presence with the ability to score goals," Howson said. "He will also bring to our club the experience of someone who had played deep into the playoffs as he was a significant contributor to the Oilers' run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals."

Brule, thrust into the Columbus lineup two years ago at the age of 19, struggled with the Blue Jackets. He managed just 12 goals and 20 assists in 146 games while playing on the third and fourth lines.

The Blue Jackets then picked up a big, stay-at-home blue-liner in Commodore, who signed a five-year deal worth a reported $18.75 million.

The 28-year-old Commodore played two full seasons with Carolina and split last season between the Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators. He played in 72 regular-season games in 2005-06, posting three goals and 10 assists, then had two goals and two assists in the postseason when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.

The Blue Jackets have never been known for their physical play, particularly on the back end of their defense. That figures to change with Commodore.

"We are building a team identity based on competitiveness and being hard to play against, and Mike fits that very well," Howson said. "He is a physical presence on the blue line (and) has won championships at various levels throughout his career."

Torres will likely get time on the Blue Jackets' No. 2 line. Nikolai Zherdev, whose name had popped up in trade rumors, might be on the opposite wing with another recent trade acquisition, R.J. Umberger, at center. The Blue Jackets picked up Umberger and a draft pick from Philadelphia for two draft choices on June 20.

The Blue Jackets were expected to be in the bidding for a first-line center and possibly two defensemen in the free-agent market that opened Tuesday.

Torres played 32 games last season for the Oilers after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a game in December. He has 67 goals and 59 assists in 307 career games.

He hopes to be 100 percent healed by the time camp opens, but has yet to skate since the injury.

"It's going to take some time," he said. "I'm still a little nervous to see how it is when I get out there."

Brule, 21, had one goal and eight assists in 61 games a year ago while trying to find himself. He had nine goals and 10 assists a year earlier in 78 games.

Both players were first-round draft picks, Torres going No. 5 to the New York Islanders in 2000 and Brule at No. 6 in 2005.

Torres has two seasons left on a contract that will pay him a total of more than $4.5 million. Brule can become a restricted free agent after next season and made less than $1 million.

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