The complete rebuild of the Columbus Blue Jackets is well underway and so far, GM Scott Howson has actually done a decent job.
Howson acquired a 1st round draft pick and Jack Johnson (a former first rounder himself) from the Los Angeles Kings last night for Jeff Carter. Earlier in the week, he shipped Antoine Vermette to the Phoenix Coyotes for a 2nd round draft pick.
Now, it appears the biggest fish of all – Rick Nash – is next. If he is moved, the Blue Jackets will have dumped three players with $106.9 million remaining on their contracts after this season. Nash has 7 years left at $47.4 million; Carter a whopping 10 years to go at $52 million; and Vermette with 2 years at $7.5 million.
I’m amazed at what Howson was able to get for Carter, who has been a disappointment in Columbus to say the least. It’s not easy dealing a player with 10 years left on his contract. And Johnson is a good young defenceman with plenty of upside.
As for Nash, well I’m no fan of dealing your franchise player at this point of the season; he’s too good of a player to be rushed out of town. I think the Jackets could get a better deal this June at the NHL Draft. But, it seems to me Columbus has already emotionally parted ways with Nash and it’s a given; he will be dealt by Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.
The Blue Jackets might not be done there either. Centre Derrick Brassard could very well be next. He has two years and $7 million remaining on his contract.
What remains to be seen: How in the H E double hockey sticks is Columbus going to sell any tickets next season?
BROWN IN LEAFS BLUE?: Whether they were ever serious contenders for him or not, Toronto missed out on Carter, but that trade might have opened another door for the Leafs. Kings captain Dustin Brown is now reportedly available. Brown would actually be a better fit in Toronto anyway and he’s Brian Burke’s ideal type of forward. The Leafs will have to give up at least Luke Schenn, who is needed to replace Johnson on the Kings blueline, along with a decent prospect. You’d think Mike Richards would take over as captain in LA and it’ll be he and Carter’s team – just as it was in Philadelphia. The big difference is the Kings have great goaltending. Speaking of goaltending, LA still has their biggest bargaining chip in backup Jonathan Bernier.
KARLSSON A LOCK FOR NORRIS: Erik Karlsson will win the Norris Trophy this year, you can bet your house on it. Not too many awards are a lock, but if Karlsson doesn’t win the NHL’s most outstanding defenceman award, this blogger will burn his laptop. Karlsson is on pace to become the first blueliner to record 80 points in a season since 2005-06 when Nick Lidstrom managed the feat. The 21-year-old has 13 goals and 47 assists for 60 points in 61 games and is nearly 20 points clear of any other d-man in the league. But the most incredible stat to me is his plus/minus rating. The Swede is +15 so far this year; he was -30 last season. The youngster’s breakout season is one of the main reasons why the rebuilding Ottawa Senators find themselves in a surprising playoff position with only 20 regular season games to go.
JETS ATOP SOUTHEAST: All of a sudden, the Winnipeg Jets are leading their division, which has been full of surprises this season. Washington and Tampa have disappointed, while Florida and Winnipeg have had great seasons. Incredibly, of these two teams could very well win the division and get home ice for the first round. The Panthers do trail the Jets by only a point with four games in hand however. You can imagine the fans in Winnipeg will go bonkers if they Jets are the 3rd seed in the East. Winnipeg, after a 15-year absence from the NHL, has cheered their team to an incredible 19-9-3 record on home ice this season.
UFA WATCH IN MTL: Meanwhile, the Canadiens have hit rock bottom – tied for last place that is in the East. With Hal Gill already dealt and Travis Moen on injured reserve, available unrestricted free agents remaining in Montreal are Andrei Kostitsyn, Mathieu Darche and Chris Campoli. Kostitsyn and Darche could very well re-sign in Montreal, but look for Campoli to be dealt, and he won’t get much of a return for the Habs.
COLTS COLLAPSE: For the second straight Thursday at the Ed Lumley arena, Colts fans were treated to a preview of playoff hockey. This time, Cornwall blew a 2-0 third-period lead, and fell to the Brockville Braves, 3-2. Tylor and Tyson Spink combined for four points on the night for the Colts, who were playing their fifth game in eight days. The Colts really seemed to run out of gas in the rare third-period collapse. Cornwall gets a much-needed break; they’re off until next Thursday when the Carleton Place Canadians come to town.
AMAZING VIDEO: If you haven’t seen the video of the 59-year-old woman who won a new truck during the intermission at the Akwesasne Warriors game before Christmas, you must click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccZqU8rJjTs. You really have to see this unbelievable video, which has more than 1.7 million hits on YouTube. Thanks to Diane for sending me the link.
PIPER’S POINTS: The Carter/Nash experiment didn’t last long in Columbus and to me it really never stood a chance. Carter isn’t the playmaking centre that Nash needs/deserves. You can’t have two 300-shot guys playing together. It just doesn’t work. Enjoy Deadline Day!