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02-14-2010, 06:42 PM
Ohio Jones
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HFNHL: Columbus "New" Jackets Swing Three Trades

CD - Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH

In an effort to revitalize their forward corps and deal with a number of expiring contracts, the Columbus Blue Jackets have completed three deals in the last 24 hours.

- The first deal sees veteran pivot Saku Koivu and recent WJC MVP Derek Stepan go to Montreal along with a second round pick for top-line winger LW David Booth.

- The second deal sends top NCAA blueliner Brendan Smith to Los Angeles for C/W Manny Malhotra.

- The third deal sends power winger Steve Bernier and Washington's first round pick in the 2010 entry draft to San Jose for C/LW Mike Fisher and a 4th round pick in 2011.

"We're giving up a lot of depth from our system," acknowledged Jackets GM Doug Emerson. "We've worked hard over the last several years to build up a deep prospect pool, and this is one of the reasons why: to have the quality assets needed to make deals. You've got to give to get, and I won't lie - giving up promising youngsters in Stepan and Smith is tough, not to mention two high picks in this summer's draft. But we feel the return is worth it. And we're confident we have the talent and depth in our development system to afford the loss."

The Jackets had better hope so, with no picks in the first three rounds in either of the next two drafts. And while they added three NHL bodies today, they also shipped two out in Koivu and Bernier.

"We knew we weren't going to be in a position to re-sign Saku," said Emerson, "so moving him for an asset that will be with us longer term simply made sense. Steve meanwhile had approached us earlier in the year, suggesting he felt he'd gone about as far as he could go with our organization after being our 2003 first round pick, and that a change of scenery might do him good. We reluctantly agreed, and when this opportunity came up with Sn Jose, it seemed like a good fit for him and for us.

"We wish all these guys well with their new clubs."

In Booth, Malhotra and Fisher, the Jackets acquire three players under 30, each of whom either is or will be under long-term contracts by the end of the season. All three exhibit a physical dimension and the strong two-way play Head Coach Mike Babcock insists on from his players. It's unclear what the Jackets' lines will be, but with Olli Jokinen expected to miss at least another 2 weeks, there is some room for Babcock to experiment with different looks.

"One thing these moves give us," says Babcock, "is an even stronger presence in the faceoff circle. That's been key for us so far this year in controlling the play, and we look forward to that being an even greater strength. When healthy we'll be able to roll three potent scoring lines, and I think we have the defensive acumen throughout the lineup that we'll be able to match up pretty much any line against our opponents' top scorers and feel secure that we're going to take care of our end."

"We feel these moves will give us a leg up as we strive to better our post-season appearance from last year," said Emerson. "We like the look it gives our club, with a strong returning core for the next few years. And we'll still have room to give guys like (Max) Pacioretty, (Zach) Boychuk, (Semyon) Varlamov and (Carl) Gunnarsson real opportunities to contribute going forward."

Asked if he was done tinkering with the roster this season, Emerson said he'd have to evaluate the performance of the club as it absorbs these changes before making any final decisions, but suggested that one or two moves for depth considerations heading into the deadline would be a possibility.

"For now we just want to let these guys gel and see what we've got," he said, "but we're committed to giving our fans the best on-ice product we can, both this season and in the years to come."

Columbus fans should get a first look at their new players when the Jackets face off against the Islanders in the second half of a home-and-home. The Jackets took the first installment on Long Island with a 4-3 shootout victory.

Last edited by Ohio Jones: 02-15-2010 at 12:31 PM.
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