Columbus Blue Jackets: Grading Their Moves (and Non-Moves) at the Trade Deadline

Patrick DrottarCorrespondent IFebruary 29, 2012

Columbus Blue Jackets: Grading Their Moves (and Non-Moves) at the Trade Deadline

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    The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have let the world know that they have no plans of rebuilding.

    Columbus moved some of its core players and called the moves part of the "reshaping" process for the franchise. Coming into the deadline, the Jackets let it be known that almost everyone on the team was available, including captain Rick Nash.

    Where Nash could end up was one of the most talked about rumors after it was revealed that he was available a few weeks ago.

    However, on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m., the Jackets captain was still in Columbus, and still part of the team that drafted him back in 2002. The Jackets had a steep asking price for the 27-year-old and were not going to budge on their offer.

    Although the team was not able to trade Nash, it was able to make some other deals before the trade deadline.

    So, let's take a look at my grades for the moves, and non-moves, made by the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

Antoine Vermette to Phoenix Coyotes for Goalie Curtis McElhinney and Draft Picks

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    The first move that was made by the Columbus Blue Jackets before the deadline was trading center Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes for goaltender Curtis McElhinney and two draft picks.

    One of the picks will be a second-round pick in the upcoming entry draft, while the other will be a fifth-round pick in 2013.

    Vermette was originally acquired by the Blue Jackets back in March of 2009 when the team was making a push for its first playoff berth in franchise history.

    The 29-year-old would not only help the Jackets make the playoffs for the first time, but he would go on to play 241 straight games for Columbus before being traded last week.

    Vermette played well in his first full season in Columbus with career highs in goals (27), assists (38) and points (65).

    However, the Quebec native's numbers have consistently slipped since his first year in Columbus, and it was clear that a change needed to be made.

    Vermette was a leader on and off the ice and was a huge help to the local communities in Columbus, but the Jackets had to move forward with their young core of centers led by Ryan Johansen.

    The pick the Jackets received for the upcoming draft is just one of many the team has acquired so far this season, and it may receive more if Columbus trades captain Rick Nash in the offseason (more on that later).

    The other piece in the trade, McElhinney, will be out for the rest of the year after having surgery on his abdomen in January.

    When healthy, McElhinney will most likely fill the role of the team's backup if the Jackets decide not to re-sign Curtis Sanford in the offseason.

     

    Grade: D

    Vermette needed a change of scenery and should help Phoenix in its playoff push, Columbus got the picks that it wanted, but McElhinney is a head-scratcher when the Jackets could just re-sign Sanford, a perfectly reliable backup.

Samuel Pahlsson to Vancouver Canucks for Draft Picks

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    When the Blue Jackets signed free agent center Samuel Pahlsson in the summer of 2009, they were hoping that his talented faceoff skills, as well as Stanley Cup playoff experience, would help the Jackets make the playoffs two years in a row.

    However, in his three seasons with the team, Pahlsson and the Jackets never saw playoff hockey.

    Pahlsson put up consistent numbers on the Jackets' third line as a shutdown center, but it was not enough to make Columbus competitive in the Western Conference.

    The 34-year-old is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and with the Jackets sitting at the bottom of the NHL standings, they looked to clear out some of their pending contracts.

    There were several teams that were interested in Pahlsson's services, and in the end, Columbus traded the Swede to the Vancouver Canucks for two fourth-round picks in the upcoming entry draft.

    Pahlsson should add some depth to the Canucks' center position and will most likely get another opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup this year.

    On Columbus' end of the deal, it got what it wanted, stockpiling draft picks to help with the rebuilding process.

    However, it is unfortunate that the Jackets have to part ways with a player like Pahlsson, who continually shut down opposing team's top players. 

    After the trade occurred, Pahlsson stated that he was disappointed with the move because he did not want to leave Columbus.

     

    Grade: C+

    The Jackets were able to continue stockpiling draft picks, but they gave up a consistent shutdown center to do so.

Jeff Carter to L.A. Kings for Jack Johnson and First-Round Draft Pick

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    Before the start of the season, the acquisition of center Jeff Carter was supposed to turn things around for the Blue Jackets.

    The team had finally found the top-line center to pair with Rick Nash and help make the Jackets competitive in the Western Conference.

    However, Carter missed a good chunk of the season due to injuries, and it seemed like he never wanted to be in Columbus in the first place, causing his numbers to slip.

    Rumors started back in November that Carter had requested a trade, and although Carter denied the claim, it was clear that the Jackets were considering ending the relationship.

    Several teams had interest in Carter, but they didn't seem to be willing to give the Jackets what they wanted in return, and rumors swirled that Carter's attitude was scaring teams away.

    However, last week, the Jackets were finally able to make a deal, as they traded Carter to the Los Angeles Kings to be reunited with his former Philadelphia Flyer roommate Mike Richards.

    In return, the Jackets got the Kings' first-round draft pick in either 2012 or 2013 (depending on whether the Kings make the postseason this year), as well as defenseman Jack Johnson.

    Johnson is an immediate upgrade for the Jackets blue line, as he brings plenty of NHL as well as Olympic experience at only 25 years of age.

    Johnson struggled this season in Los Angeles, but so did the entire Kings team, ranking dead last in scoring. A change of scenery could do the trick to bring the Indiana native out of his funk.

    With the acquisition of Johnson, the Jackets' blue line has become cluttered, as seen by the placing of defenseman Grant Clitsome on waivers this week (he was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets on Monday).

    At the end of the season, players like Radek Martinek and Brett Lebda will most likely not be re-signed, and Marc Methot could be traded to make room for younger players like John Moore and David Savard.

    The Jackets are reshaping their defensive corps and having a top pairing of Johnson and James Wisniewski could be quite the offensive duo for the future.

     

    Grade: A-

    Not only did they deal a player that never wanted to be in Columbus in the first place, but the Jackets got a talented, proven defenseman who is excited to help turn this franchise around in return.

Not Trading Rick Nash

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    The biggest move the Blue Jackets made this trade deadline may have been the one they didn't make.

    Ever since captain Rick Nash was made available a few weeks ago, the biggest question was: Who was on his short list of teams that he would be willing to waive his no-movement clause for?

    Several teams were mentioned, including the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, but it was later revealed that the Jackets spoke with every NHL club about possibly acquiring Nash.

    The Jackets were asking for a lot in return for Nash, wanting an immediate-impact player, at least two top prospects and a first-round draft pick.

    The asking price for Nash was a big reason the list of teams pursuing him at the deadline was so slim, as teams were not looking to rip apart their rosters to acquire Nash.

    Coming up on the deadline, some general managers in the past have lowered their asking price, desperate to make a deal before 3 p.m.

    However, Jackets general manager Scott Howson did no such thing, refusing to lower his asking price.

    This was a smart move by Howson, as he would be giving up a consistent 40-goal scorer for the hope that the prospects and picks he gets in return pan out.

    The Jackets have had plenty of failed prospects in the past (Nikolay Zherdev and Nikita Filatov come to mind) and want the best in return for the face of the franchise.

    Nash not being traded only delays the inevitable, however, as the chances of him staying in Columbus are slim to none, and Howson will most likely look to deal him before or during the upcoming entry draft.

    Several teams who spoke with Howson told him that they would be more willing to give the Jackets what they want in return if the deal were to occur in the offseason.

    By not lowering his asking price for Nash, the Jackets may get the return they've been looking for in the offseason, possibly bringing rescue to the Jackets' biggest issue, their goaltending.

    However, there are some negatives to not trading Nash at the deadline. In a press conference after the deadline had passed, Howson made it known that Nash was the one that came to management and asked to be traded.

    The way that Howson threw Nash under the bus shows that he is clearly not handling this situation well, which could spell the end of his time in Columbus.

    Nash would later state in a press conference, according to The Columbus Dispatch, that he requested the trade because he felt he could bring back some key assets when he found out that the team was going to rebuild.

    "I was informed by management that there was a rebuild, a reshape, of the team, and I personally felt I could be a huge part of that, toward bringing assets in," he said. "I think that was in my view, that was the best thing for the team, the organization, and personally for my career."

    Nash has been silent through the many rebuilds the Jackets have attempted and deserves to be on a winner.

    Grade: B

    The Jackets may get what they asked for in return for Nash in the offseason, but they are not handling trading the face of the franchise well.