COLUMBUS, OH - Columbus Blue Jackets fans should be assured of one thing after Wednesdays NHL trade deadline: This teams management is in it for the here and now AND the future.
The Blue Jackets rocked an otherwise ho-hum trading deadline day with a deal to bring 31-year-old superstar winger Marian Gaborik to Columbus, along with AHL defensemen Steven Delisle and Blake Bartlett. It was one of three significant deals the team made in the waning minutes of the trade deadline, and it was clearly the biggest.
In return for Gaborik, the Blue Jackets sent forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, along with defenseman John Moore and a 6th-round pick in next years draft to the New York Rangers. In a press conference at Nationwide Arena shortly after making the deals, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Gaborik, a three-time 40-goal scorer in the NHL, adds a significant piece to the teams offense, something that was a primary focus heading up to the trade deadline.
Throughout this process, our focus was to add a player who could provide a boost to our offense, improve our goal scoring and power play, and we identified Marian Gaborik as the player we wanted, said Kekalainen. He has been an elite goal scorer in this league for many years and we are very excited to have him.
Kekalainen emphasized again that the Blue Jackets were not interested in a so-called rental player, a player whose contract expires at the end of this season. Gaborik, who waived a no-trade clause in his contract to accept the trade to Columbus, is under contract through the 2013-14 season, and Kekalainen made it clear the team is hoping the 31-year-old sniper from the Czech Repubic will be a cornerstone of the Blue Jackets for years beyond that. He also said it was important that Gaborik was excited about coming to Columbus.
J.D. and I talked to Marian, and Vinny Prospal (Blue Jackets winger and fellow countryman) talked to him; he was one guy Marian reached out to, and he seems genuinely excited about the opportunity. Thats all we could ask for, and thats something we wanted to be convinced about, too, to have a player that wants to come here, is excited about coming here, and is excited about our team and helping us moving forward.
That wasnt the only deal that had the NHL abuzz Wednesday. Before the Gaborik deal was announced, the Blue Jackets traded backup goaltender Steve Mason to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for goaltender Michael Leighton and a 3rd-round pick in the 2015 draft. Ironically, Mason, the former NHL Rookie of the Year, lost his starters role this season to Sergei Bobrovsky, who was traded by the Flyers to Columbus during the off-season. Leighton, who played only one game with Philadelphia this season, was the starting goaltender in Philadelphias Stanley Cup Final loss to Chicago in 2010.
And finally, to add some grit up front with the loss of Derek Dorsett (who is on IR with a broken collarbone) and the injury to Jared Boll, the Blue Jackets swapped a 5th-round pick in this years draft to the Calgary Flames for Blake Comeau, a 27-year-old forward and former 2nd-round pick of the New York Islanders.
We are excited to add Blake Comeau to our hockey club and believe he will fit in perfectly with our style of play, Kekalainen said. He is a physical, hard-hitting forward who has also shown the ability to score goals.
To recap, the Columbus Blue Jackets stunned the hockey world Wednesday. No doubt, they gave up some quality players in proven scorer Derick Brassard, heart-and-soul player Derek Dorsett, and up-and-coming defenseman John Moore, along with a 5th-round pick in the 2013 draft and a 6th pick in the 2014 draft. In return, the team has acquired a bonafide superstar scorer, a tough forward who can score goals, and a goaltender who should be a solid complement to Bobrovsky, who will undoubtedly continue to carry the load in the Columbus net.
All in all, it was a mind-boggling day in Columbus. And in a season that seems to be moving in the right direction step-by-step, this may have been a quantum leap forward. Only time will tell, but at least Blue Jackets fans know this management team and ownership are all in.