The fire sale has begun for the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was reported today that the General Manager, Scott Howson, traded forward Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for goaltender Curtis McElhinney, a 2012 second round pick, and a 2013 fifth round pick. The fifth round pick will become a fourth round pick if the Coyotes can win a playoff round this season.
While it is no surprise that Columbus has started to ship players out, it may have been a surprise to learn that Vermette was the first to go. The center has a contract that pays him $3.75M for the next three years once the 2011-2012 campaign is over. Through 60 games played this year, he has tallied 8 goals and 19 assists. The cap hit on the contract was probably something that Howson didn't think was worth keeping and thusly shipped him out to greener pastures. With the subtraction of Vermette, look for the Blue Jackets to move Samuel Pahlsson ($2.6M) and possibly Vaclav Prospal ($2.5M) next.
The interesting spin in all of this Columbus trade talk is that what if Howson has a change of heart? What if he wants to keep both Carter and Nash for the long-term future? Could the Blue Jackets re-tool in the offseason and post a respectable record next year? If Howson can shed another $2M+ from his roster for next season (Prospal or Mason), they would be working with a projected cap space of $19M and the rights to the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft. A pick of Yakupov or Murray and a few smart signings could turn this club around faster than anticipated. Granted, the number one priority they need to fix is goaltending, but there is still a slim chance that the Blue Jackets could walk into the future with both Jeff Carter and Rick Nash.
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It seems logical to me that Columbus should approach ST.Louis for a trade for Goaltender Ben Bishop.Blues Jackets should dump some salary and try to get a good young Goaltender like Bishop.It makes perfect sense to make a deal.
@Elbirdos67 The Jackets already have a young goalie in Mason, who they seem willing to continue to ride regardless of him having a down year this year compared to his past performance. Honestly, rather than worrying about another goalie, they'd be better off looking to shore up the defensive side of their game outside of the net.
The tricky thing about Bishop is, he's almost assuredly just going to walk from the Blues during the offseason, since both Elliot and Halak are locked in for two more years. Given the way he's dominating teams at the AHL level this year, he's ready to make the leap to the NHL somewhere, and the Blues aren't in a position to make that somewhere be St. Louis. I can only really foresee two situations where Bishop moves before leaving in the offseason: 1) To a playoff-bound team looking to shore up their goaltending. There are a few of these, but they'd likely want a more proven commodity if they could by any means come up with one. 2) For a future draft pick, and probably not a terribly high one. This would simply be trying to get something rather than nothing on the part of the Blues.
As for Nash and Carter, while I'm sure there are teams who might both want them, and have room to take on their large and lengthy contracts, the dearth of sellers this year seems to also be driving up the material costs of trades. Not to say that we couldn't still see one or both of them move, but if either does, it seems likely that the trade will be pretty unbalanced in Columbus' favor going forward.
@MSP@Elbirdos67 Well, look at it this way: They did go out and at least try things to improve their organization in order to take that next step. Said things didn't work, and the fans certainly have every right to be upset about the outcome, but they can't reasonably say that the organization didn't make a concerted effort. Luckily for both the fans and the organization, they do have several of those bad contracts coming off the books in the next couple of years, and they now have a lot of experience in who NOT to offer large contracts to.
@MSP@Elbirdos67 I'm not sure Buffalo is a fair comparison for anybody making trades or handing out contracts. Seems like everything they've done recently has turned to ashes on them. Sure, that kind of thing happens from time to time to any team, but really, it's not like they didn't try to do right by their fans. The players just haven't, for a variety of reasons, held up their end of the bargain.