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Trade Deadline Preview

Most of the Blue Jackets returned to the ice last week but there are still a few Olympians making their way back to Columbus. There may be some new faces in the locker room by the time they arrive.

The Blue Jackets are nine points out of eighth place in the West with only 19 games remaining in the season. That’s a pretty big margin to make up in the final month and a half of the season, and General Manager Scott Howson is not expected to do anything to make it easier. The Blue Jackets will be sellers on Wednesday’s trade deadline.

Almost certain to be moved is winger Raffi Torres. Scott Howson is rumored to be asking for a second round pick for the 19-goal scorer. With the market trend set by the likes of Dominic Moore, Matt Cullen and as recently as this morning with Florida’s trade of Jordan Leopold, a first round pick should not be out of question. Torres has some hefty playoff experience, plays the game with reckless abandonment, and has a propensity for scoring clutch goals. He’ll be playing in the postseason.

Other Blue Jackets that can be added to the list of possible trade targets are free agents-to-be Milan Jurcina and Fredrik Modin. Jurcina, who has looked solid in limited playing time since being acquired from Washington earlier this season, certainly buoyed his trade value with an impressive performance for the Cinderella Slovaks.

Modin looked reinvigorated playing for Team Sweden, but came down sick in the Swedes’ final game. Modin also has to waive a no-trade clause, but some sources believe that will not be an issue. It may be tougher finding a buyer for Modin, who has been in-and-out of the infirmary for much of his tenure with the Blue Jackets.

Jan Hejda, Fedor Tyutin and Marc Methot are all outside shots to be moved at the deadline. Scott Howson plans on revamping the defense over the summer and the blue line has been backlogged for much of the season

Hejda has been Mr. Reliable during his tenure with the Blue Jackets, but it’s for that reason that he could garner some interest at the deadline. He’s a bargain at $2million this year and next, even with a sub-par season so far.

Tyutin, while mistake prone, has put up some impressive offensive numbers while quarterbacking the CBJ power play. He also may be buoyed by his Olympic performance. He was paired on defense with Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar, and even made it out on a number of Russian power plays (sometimes ahead of Alexander Ovechkin).

Marc Methot’s name was tossed around in December, but has not been talked about since. Methot is still young and needs to polish his game, but on last season’s performance he could easily net a mid-round pick.

Howson would like to move defenseman Mike Commodore, who has been an enormous disappointment this season, but he’s due $3.75million for the next three seasons. No one’s buying at that price. Rostislav Klesla’s injury may keep him out of the lineup for the rest of the season if he has hip surgery so scratch his name off as well.

Blue Jackets management feels that they have too many “defensive minded defenseman” in their top 4. At least one or two will be dealt over the deadline and summer as Howson looks to create a more dynamic blue line. Don’t expect John Moore to come in immediately next season as Blue Jackets brass does not want to rush him as so many blue chip prospects have been in the past. The Olympics end and the deadline is less than 72 hours away. Welcome back to the NHL.

Notes:

One possible trade partner for Raffi Torres may be scratched from the list. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been scouting Blue Jackets games for the past month or so but traded away there second round pick to the Florida Panthers this morning in return for defenseman Jordan Leopold.

The New York Rangers have scouted numerous Blue Jackets games and are believed to be interested in Torres’ services for the remainder of the seasons and a playoff run. Scott Howson is rumored to be high on young Russian center Artem Anisimov, but the Rangers would be weary to part with him.

With 63 games already in the books, the Jackets are tied with the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Phoenix Coyotes for most games played thus far. The eighth-place Calgary Flames have nine points and one game in hand on the CBJ.

It may not be out of the realm of possibility for Nikita Filatov to return after the KHL season ends a little later this month. The Union Blue could certainly benefit from his offensive skills in the likely absence of Torres.

Bart Logan

bartftc@gmail.com

Twitter: BartFTC

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