With just over 5 days until the trade deadline, the first Blue Jackets domino has fallen as Antoine Vermette has been dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes for G Curtis McElhinney, 2nd rounder (Ottawa) in 2012 and a 5th round pick in 2013.
Probably to a lot of folks' surprise, it's not the domino many were expecting to go first. Myself included.
That said -- I'm not surprised Vermette was dealt.
So what does this mean?
Well first off, it means that this management team is not going to be influenced by one insignificant trouncing of the San Jose Sharks. In the scheme of things -- that game means nothing in a season of major disappointment (hell, a franchise full of disappointment really). A season that has the Jackets on pace to finish with their worst record in their 11 year on ice history.
As for the deal itself?
Make no mistake - this was a complete salary dump similar to dumping Rusty Klesla last season. So the biggest return here is Howson has just undone himself from that contract. In addition he picks up a 2nd round pick (which was the pick Phoenix obtained from Ottawa in the deal for Kyle Turris), a 5th round pick in 2013 and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
I'm a little surprised Howson was able to straight dump this contract without taking any salary back. That is a win for now (let's see what he does with that freed up space). Not overly impressed with the draft picks as we have failed miserably at turning 2nd rounders into anything productive BUT those picks could always be used later as currency to move up in the draft. McElhinney's inclusion looks to be a paper move by the 'yotes as they were up against the 50 contract limit according to Portzline. He will be out the rest of the year due to an abdominal injury.
I'm also sure ownership isn't crying over the fact they get to save some pesos by dumping this player.
Now here is what I'm going to keep comin back to with this management group when these deals are made -- what else was on the table? And were those other options better than this? For instance -- maybe this wasn't the best "hockey deal" on the table but the directive from ownership/Priest to Howson was to "dump salary" so this was chosen.
It's a question we will probably never know the answer to but that speaks directly to my lack of confidence in Scott Howson and Priest to broker the "right" deals.
Ultimately, this deal cannot be judged until we see what Howson and co. do with the freed up salary and draft picks. I think that will be a similar message for all of the deals made this week. Yeah, I want a wind fall for Nash but what we do with the freed up 7.8 mil per year (or whatever it ends up being) is just as important.
Funny as this is the 2nd time Vermette has been dealt at the trade deadline. Remember the Jackets acquired Vermette back in March of 09 from the Ottawa Senators for goalie Pascal Leclaire. It's also the 2nd time in as many years the Jackets have dealt a player from their roster to Phoenix -- it was Klesla who moved around this time last season for UFAs to be Scottie Upshall and Sam Lepisto.
I'd like to take this moment to say THANKS! to Antoine Vermette for the parts of 4 years he spent in Columbus. He provided a real nice spark during that 08/09 playoff run when he notched 7g, 6a for 13p in that 17 game stretch. Unfortunately things didn't work out longer term here but when teams are this bad, there will be consequences. Good luck in Phoenix and say hello to Rusty, Torres, and Whitney for us!
With Vermette gone it's clear the blow up is "on". The next question is who is next and how far reaching will it go? Nash? Carter? Mason? Pahlsson? Sanford? Umberger? Methot? Tyutin? Brassard?
I think the only safe assets are the #1 pick, Prospal, Wiz, Dorsett, Letestu, Nikitin, Johansen, Savard, Moore and Atkinson.
If you are disappointed in this trade and/or the direction of the franchise in general -- be sure to let your voice be heard over at JacketsFANS.com.