As the Columbus Blue Jackets returned home Monday from a week-long road trip where the club went 0-4, general manager Scott Howson is still looking for a potential dance partner in a quiet trade market.
Last week, defenseman Mike Commodore expressed his displeasure for his lack of playing time and wanted the team to seek a trade. Howson has been unable to find a suitor for Commodore who was scheduled to make $3.8 million this season. His value to clubs would have been small given his hefty price tag of $6.85 million for the next two years of his contract.
Howson said today that there are still quite a few possibilities including sending Commodore to the Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield.
“We are still reviewing our options and in communication with Mike and his agent (Wade Arnott), try to review the best possible outcome in this scenario,” Howson said.
On Sunday, the Blue Jackets officially demoted Commodore to Springfield though he has not been placed on its roster.
“He is an NHL player who has played in the NHL for a long time,” Howson said. “He contributed significantly to our playoff run two years ago. He is still a good player. He is still an NHL player and we want to help him find a home in the NHL.”
Trade rumors have been circulating around for the last week; not just for moves involving Commodore. Though no general manager turns off their cell phones during the season, getting other GMs to pull the trigger more than a month before the trade deadline is a challenge.
“I’ve been fairly busy talking to other teams,” Howson said. “There is nothing imminent or anything like that. We’re still working our way at it.
“I think there are teams that have the urgency. You don’t want to be in desperation mode because you’ll make a bad trade or a bad deal. I think there are other teams that have urgency, but we’re at a point in the season where the teams that are going well are looking at things and to set themselves up to be better down the road.”
The Blue Jackets are doing their best to ignore rumors of trades but the recent west coast road trip shows the squad’s focus was not where it needed to be.
“When it comes to distractions, other than the young guys who have never been through it before, everybody else certainly went through it last year,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “They have experienced that so we can’t use it as an excuse. At the end of the day, you play your games. Is it somewhat of a distraction maybe off the ice, away from the games? Once the games start, it should never be there.”
Howson is no stranger to midseason trades. Last year, he made a move in December during the midst of last year’s doldrums to acquire Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina for forward Jason Chimera. The trade was not enough to jolt the Blue Jackets back into their winning ways.
Despite the similarities between this season and last for the Blue Jackets, the squad remains just four points out of eighth place in the Western Conference for the final playoff spot. In order to get back in the race however, they’ll have to jump a number of squads as they sit No. 13 in the Western Conference.
“You don’t want to compare to last year,” Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger said. “Last year was just miserable. What we can control is we want to play meaningful games in March. We know the feeling from not doing that last year. You get that feeling that you’ll do anything to win some games once you’ve been in that situation. This next month of hockey is crucial; is important to setup a push.”
Despite the Blue Jackets only making one off-season move picking up forward Ethan Moreau who currently sits on the injured reserve and the squad continuing to struggle, Howson remains steadfast that the solution is still within the locker room.
“You have to fix what is going on on the ice inside the confines of your own team first,” Howson said. “A trade can help and we’re trying to accomplish that if it makes sense. If it makes sense and it’s the right fit, and the right person, we’re going to do it. The players are focused. The coaches are focused on getting us playing better again.”