As twitter so thoughtfully put it... over, and over and over, and over again... "And so it begins."
Antoine Vermette was traded earlier today to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for a second round pick in 2012, a 5th round pick in 2013 (that could be a 4th round pick if the Coyotes win a playoff round) and goaltender Curtis McEhlinney.
For those paying close attention to the team and media commentary throughout the league, this move was expected from the Blue Jackets. At 18-35-7 and well out of the playoff hunt, Columbus is and will continue to be sellers in hopes of retooling the roster before next season. With a team bursting at the seams with centers, it came as no surprise to me that Vermette was one of the first names on the trade list. Vermette has also been considered to be in the latter stages of a very poor year, and has not really come close to competing with his best year (not surprisingly a contract year) of 2009/2010.
I am going to take a bit of time breaking down why I believe things happened the way they did, and what we can expect for the rest of the week.
First, in terms of a player for player (or I suppose in this case picks) comparison, I think Scott Howson came out on the losing end. While picks have great potential of landing a solid player, I have not personally read any reports that suggest this will be a deep draft, and hold little hope that the 5th round pick in 2013 will net much gain either. For a 29 year old player with additional years on his contract, I had hoped the deal would land a prospect of some kind in Columbus. To be clear on this, I am not under the assumption that Curtis McEhlinney will play in Columbus or Springfield, let alone re-sign for an any additional amount of time with the organization. I believe the addition of him was simply a move to allow Phoenix to stay within the fifty player contract max.
In terms of how I believe the deal went, I would argue they broke about even. I am under the impression that of the players (especially centers) in the locker room, Vermette was one of the less valuable pieces of the puzzle, with players like Brassard and Johansen appearing to be the future top two centers of the team. With that in mind, Howson likely wanting to remove the additional three years of Vermette at 3.75 million in cap space before this summer. He could then find a less costly option, or a different style of player for that third line centerman role.
Secondary to that, Vermette has worn the "A" for various parts of the last two seasons leading me to believe that he was one of the more respected leaders on the roster. I believe this is one of a number of trades that will set the tone in the locker room and reduce the possibility of a 'country club' atmosphere that I have heard so much about over the last few months. Certainly this is nothing more than speculation on my part, but it would not surprise me, considering the comments made by Scott Howson wanting to reshape the team and move forward from this season. I think that is a strong indication of where he held Vermette on his personal depth chart, and someone who he believed was not providing enough of the right intangibles to merit a position on the roster.
I can understand the dissatisfaction regarding the deal, and the return, but I believe that it is a long process, and Columbus management has a plan that will be months in the making. I can also appreciate that few have the confidence in Howson to put together a winning hockey club, but frankly, I am not going to throw pessimism at someone who is more than likely going to be the general manager of this hockey club for the next year and possibly beyond. If moving Vermette and his 3.75 million dollar cap hit is what it takes to make room for new talent, count me in. I have been a Vermette fan for a long time and I wish him well in Phoenix, but it is time for change here.
I would love to hear your thoughts, concerns, and ideas about where the Columbus Blue Jackets should go from here. Feel free to share them in the comments section, and get ready for some more fireworks in the coming week.
Carry the Flag.